Lahm’s tired legs
We have all debated the pros and cons of Philipp Lahm’s retirement announcement. His performance today might illustrate why he feels the way he does. In a word, he was outpaced, exposing Bayern’s right to attack. The discrepancy was most obvious when Rebic made a blisteringly fast run to catch Lahm in the first half, bowling him over and seeing a yellow card for his efforts. Rebic continued to harass Bayern from his position: he later delivered a perfect would-be assist to Hrgota, who inexcusably failed to put it away, and hit the post early in the second half. Containing Rebic remained a problem on Bayern’s right throughout the match, primarily because Lahm had no hope of keeping up with him.
Hummels looked so good because he and Javi were so bad
Before Bayern suddenly leaped into a 2-0 lead, the match looked wide open. For much of the first half, Bayern’s defense seemed downright lackadaisical. The worst moment paradoxically led to the best. Branimir Hrgota caught both Javi Martinez and Mats Hummels sleeping, beat the offside trap, and caught out Manuel Neuer in a one-on-one. All Hrgota had to do was tap the ball into the net. But as he set his feet to shoot, while Javi looked forlornly on, Hummels dashed back and made a desperate tackle from behind – clearing the ball out from under Hrgota’s feet. It was spectacular – “a tackle of the season” if there were such a thing – but it happened at all because of the preceding sloppiness.
Müller slow to get into the game, then owns it
Back in his favored position shadowing Robert Lewandowski and toying with opposing defenders, Thomas Müller initially struggled to inject himself in to the game, garnering very few touches in the first half hour. He then found his mojo and became the defensive nightmare we all enjoy. He was instrumental in Bayern’s opening goal, catching a ball brought down by Lewandowski in Frankfurt’s penalty area and sending it back to Lewandowski for an assist. He nearly drew a last-man foul from Japanese international Makoto Hasebe, setting up a free kick. And in what would have been a marvelous Müller moment, he chipped Lukas Hradecky and had a goal, had not Hasebe bravely cleared the ball off the line while crashing into the post. While some were displeased that Carlo Ancelotti had Müller sit out the second leg match against Arsenal, it is clear that Müller remains a dangerous and effective part of Bayern’s offense.
Jerome Boateng makes his long-awaited comeback
Jerome Boateng played today for the first time since injuring his shoulder in December, rekindling his defensive bromance with fellow national-team center-back Hummels. Boateng immediately took charge as the anchor on Bayern’s back line, sending the ball up field with carefully placed passes and long balls to Robben and Lewandowski. Boateng was not tested often, but he proved reliable when he was. His return to form will force Ancelotti to confront the difficult question of what to do with Javi Martinez, who has developed a solid rapport with Mats Hummels and – excepting today – played with outstanding consistency.
Give the youths a chance, Carlo
Carlo Ancelotti clearly prefers to rotate in the confidence of victory. With Bayern taking a 3-0 lead, he at last felt secure enough to give precious minutes to Kingsley Coman and Renato Sanches, who replaced Robert Lewandowski and Arturo Vidal. The odd setup that produced did not exactly give them the best conditions in which to succeed. Coman played out wide on the right while Robben took over Lewandowski’s central position, and Sanches stayed chiefly to Thiago’s left in the midfield. Coman received a handful of opportunities to influence the game, but Sanches was starved for touches, reflected in Douglas Costa’s simultaneous disappearance from the action. Sanches’s best opportunity would tellingly come off a set-piece, when he headed the ball wide of the goal. Patience may be a huge part of being a professional athlete, but it would be nice to see some of Bayern’s rising youngsters receive better opportunities.