Jupp, he is human after all.
For eight games, Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes put all the right pieces in all the right places, which led to eight wins in all competitions. Wednesday night in Bayern’s penultimate Champions League group stage match, a puzzling starting XI, a couple of untimely injuries and a plucky opponent fueled an uneven 2-1 win over Anderlecht in Brussels. Bayern sit on 12 points, three adrift of Paris St-Germain in Group B with both sides set to meet in the final group stage match.
Whether it was a 4-3-3 (mostly), 4-4-2 (at times) or 4-3-1-2 (yes, there was some odd positioning), it was a decided departure from the favored 4-2-3-1 used under Heynckes to pulsating prowess the previous eight matches.
The center-back pairing of Jerome Boateng and Niklas Sule was not terribly intimidating nor effective in positioning to prevent Anderlecht’s free reign in the middle of the penalty area for most of the game.
Thiago was deployed on the left wing (or what looked to be an island) and was largely ineffective before leaving with a serious injury. Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said after the match that Thiago could miss several months with what was described as a muscle injury.
Robben, tucked into his usual position on the right wing, dribbled too much, passed too little and also left with an apparent leg injury. Vidal looked lost, devoid of any real sharp edge and walked off the field with a grimace after being substituted late in the match.
James Rodriguez replaced Thiago and looked comfortable for the most part. He played a ball to Corentin Tolisso, who eventually played a cutting, cross-pitch pass to Robert Lewandowski for the opening goal of the game in the 51st minute. Tolisso scored was proved to be the game-winning goal in the 77th minute when he neatly headed home a tightrope Joshua Kimmich cross. The consistency is not always there for Tolisso through 90 minutes, but he has sublime talent going forward.
Lewy was the second-best Polish striker on pitch
Sure, Lewandowski scored the opening goal, but Anderlecht has its own potent Polish forward, Lukasz Teodorczyk, who should have bagged a bushel of goals in the first half. Teodorczyk pushed a glorious chance wide of the goal in the 30th minute and continued to cull through the heart of the Bayern defense throughout his 82 minutes, including a pair of dangerous shots parried away by Sven Ulreich.
Sure, it’s not as catchy as #SvenTheWall, but Ulreich made a number of saves, mostly in the first half, that kept Bayern from the predicament of a two- or three-goal deficit. Ulreich’s series of shaky performances in the initial few weeks of Manuel Neuer re-injuring his foot have now given way to confident completion of not only game-saving stops but better ball distribution with his feet. If Neuer’s injury keeps him out well into the spring, Ulreich is starting to inspire confidence that Bayern will not need reinforcements in goal during the January transfer window.