Jersey Swap: Dmytro Chygrynskiy
The Ukrainian center back put on an admirable display with the rest of the AEK Athens’ back line, but came undone after an hour of play. The veteran defender contained the Bayern attack throughout the early stages of the match, making a couple pivotal blocks and dealing with the movement of Robert Lewandowski and the creativity and energy of Serge Gnabry. His awareness to cut off passing lanes and block dangerous balls in was impressive throughout the night and he dealt with waves of pressure with composure. Also, shout out to the Athenian fans, they were a factor all match.
Tip of the Cap: Javi Martinez
Javi did not look his best today, especially on the defensive end. He was serviceable for the most part, but left the back line out to dry on a few counters where he misjudged angles, or was absolutely burned. That being said, he was strong in possession and in the air and he gets the nod for this recognition for his contribution in the attacking third.
It seemed as though the match were going stale when the Spanish destroyer gracefully took his volley following Arjen Robben’s blocked shot. Martinez went airborne and made solid contact with the ball to break the deadlock and open up the match. Bayern Munich did not look back, scoring just two minutes later and closing out the game with ease.
Golf Clap: Robert Lewandowski
Although, Lewandowski was frustrated for large portions of the match, his movement and persistence were vital to Bayern’s break through. Despite what seemed like 100 blocked crosses, the Polish striker continued to get into dangerous positions, eventually finding the net with a tap-in. He was unlucky not to see his back-heeled redirection of a Joshua Kimmich cross trickle across the line, but he should be pleased with his performance nonetheless. Against a team with a deep back line and a packed box, Lewandowski’s movement was crucial to creating opportunities for his teammates.
It was a vintage display that could have seen him score more with a little luck and better service early in the match.
Standing Ovation: Rafinha
This really could have gone to the entire defense. They were strong in possession and coped with odd-numbered counter attacks well. Kimmich and Rafinha were active throughout the match and their attacking contribution put pressure on the AEK fullbacks. Hey, even Mats Hummels was involved with the first goal, finding Arjen Robben in the center of the box.
Rafinha, however, gets the nod. He terrorized AEK’s left back, who was already struggling to cope with Serge Gnabry’s aggression. The Brazilian full back completed three key passes and contributed one assist, while putting in six successful challenges and two interceptions. The lack of depth at full back was felt during the 33-year-old’s absence, but his return couldn’t have come at a better time as he stepped in without a hitch for the injured David Alaba.
Meister of the Match: Serge Gnabry
In only 73 minutes, Serge Gnabry showed exactly why Bayern Munich brought him in. For stretches in the first half and early in the second, the German international was the most dangerous man on the pitch. He was assertive on the ball and took on all comers. He showed an ability to beat defenders both inside and to the touchline. This unpredictability made him almost unplayable, which opened space for Rafinha on the overlap.
He played a few good balls into the box and was unlucky to have some of them blocked. Gnabry finally looked comfortable among the first team and if he continues to build his confidence, Franck Ribery will find it hard to regain his place. Die Roten need the German winger in top form if they are to live up to their high expectations.