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Ajax 3-3 Bayern Munich: Initial reactions and random observations

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It’s hard to process what just happened. Two reds, two penalties, and two late goals.

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Photo by Simon Hofmann/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

Full time: Bayern Munich end a thrilling encounter with Ajax 3-3. It was certainly entertaining, but not in a fun way if you’re a Bayern fan. There were moments when it looked like Ajax would just swarm over the team and score at will. Here are some quick observations from the game:

  • Can Bayern Munich hold onto possession? Like, at all? The stats read 46% in favor of the visitors, but it sure didn’t feel that way. Thiago probably should have been subbed on a few minutes earlier than he was.
  • The subs had good games. Thiago’s magnificent dribble won the penalty while Coman was cool under pressure to slot it into the Ajax goal. That should have been the game winner, but it wasn’t to be.
  • Thomas Muller’s brain-fade in the second half is going to cost Bayern. Because of the straight red, he’s liable to miss the entire Ro16.
  • Jerome Boateng could’ve claimed to have had a solid night, until the penalty happened. Really, these moments of madness are what keep him from being rated as a truly great defender.
  • This game could’ve have gone any way. An amazing save by the Ajax goalkeeper and a few great chances in the first half kept the Bavarians at bay while Ajax struggled to break down the defense. However, Kovac’s team allowed the Dutch side free reign in their box and it cost them.

95’ — GOAL AJAX! The goals keep falling: the ball takes a strange deflection off Kimmich and finds its way through Bayern’s defense to the feet of Huntelaar. He slots it inside for Tagliafico, who taps it in past Neuer.


94’ — Huntelaar attempts to volley his first touch, but skies it over the goal.


90’ — GOAL BAYERN! So glad they are back: Thiago finds Coman open outside on the left. Kingsley squares up and shoots true: Bayern take the lead 3-1!


89’ — The final substitutions have been made: old friend Klaas-Jan Huntelaar replaces Neres, and Renato Sanches comes on for Goretzka.


86’ — GOAL BAYERN! The stutter-step finish strikes again! Thiago is fouled by Tagliafica inside the box. The referee now awards Bayern a penalty. Lewandowski and Goretzka slide on their knees toward the infuriated home fans in the corner. They respond by throwing debris on the pitch.


82’ — GOAL AJAX! Incredible: Ajax wins a penalty against Bayern! Dolberg makes his presence felt: he draws a penalty on Jerome Boateng. Tadic coolly puts it away.


81’ — Rafinha nutmegs a player, makes a fantastic dribble, drives deep into Ajax’s penalty area, but waits until it is too late to pass, and Ajax clear the threat.


78’ — While his teammate is being treated, Dolberg replaces Van de Beek.


76’ — RED CARD: Thomas Müller has been sent off. Müller kicked Tagliafica in the head as he attempted to bring down a high ball. Tagliafica is treated with staples on the pitch. He will seemingly carry on.


73’ — Now Onana seems rattled. He springs out of the goal and comes down on top of Thomas Müller. Then launches a goal kick right out of bounds.


71’ — Franck Ribery makes way for Kingsley Coman, as Bayern switches to attack.


67’ — RED CARD: Maximilian Wöber receives a straight red card for a brutal foul on Leon Goretzka. He is being treated by Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt on the sidelines.


65’ — Bayern nearly recapture the lead! But Onana is on hand to parry Lewandowski’s header. What a save!


63’ — Yellow card: Blind receives a yellow card, apparently for arguing with the referee.


62’ — Substitution: Serge Gnabry makes way for Thiago, as Niko Kovac attempts to regain control of the midfield.


61’ — GOAL Ajax! Ajax stick to their recipe: after holding the ball near the center circle, Ajax launches another fast attack, splitting Bayern’s defense. Van de Beek receives the ball in Bayern’s penalty area and delivers a perfect low cross into the path of Tadic who merely taps the ball into the net.


60’ — Ziyech shoots once more from outside. Neuer makes a diving save, pushing the ball out of harm’s way. Ajax continues to circulate the ball outside Bayern’s reach before launching rapid attacks.


58’ — More danger for Bayern: Ziyech dribbles past Kimmich into Bayern’s penalty area and passes to Neres near the top of the box. Neres shifts the ball to his shooting foot, but fires over the goal.


56’ — Ajax waste a promising opportunity as Tadic finds Neres deep inside Bayern’s penalty area, but Neres cannot find anyone with his cross.


53’ — Bayern seem somewhat more in control so far this half. They’re holding the ball longer and searching for holes in Ajax’s defense.


51’ — Ribery breaks away up the middle and passes wide to Lewandowski on the left. But De Ligt is on hand to disrupt his shot, and Onana cleanly catches it.


49’ — Alaba wins yet another corner. And again, Bayern can’t do anything with it.


47’ — Alaba wins a corner for Bayern.


Start of the second half — And the ball rolls yet again. Ajax immediately win the ball and go on the attack.


Halftime observations

  • For the first time in a very long time, Bayern’s is not dominating possession. Ajax has had 60% possession, to 40% for Bayern. The Bavarians have struggled to keep the ball in the midfield and on the wings, while Ajax seems very comfortable building up their attacks from the back, yet striking suddenly.
  • Ajax launched several dangerous attacks from their right flank early on in the game, but David Alaba and Ribery have adjusted and largely driven them inside, forcing long shots or throughballs up the middle rather than expose Neuer to crosses. Ribery, in particular, has dropped very deep on defense.
  • Leon Goretzka has contributed very little to Bayern’s offense. He appears to be performing a primarily defensive role. He has made three tackles, but none of his other stats are very eye-catching.
  • Bayern’s front three at least have been very good. Serge Gnabry has broken away several times to test Ajax’s keeper, only to be thwarted by his own poor finishing. He at least won an assist on Lewandowski’s goal. Müller and Lewandowski both have been working well together up front, but the finishing touch has so far eluded them. More support from the central midfield would do them well.

End of the first half — After one minute of stoppage time, the referee blows the whistle. Bayern lead 1-0.


45’ — Ziyech takes another long-range shot at Neuer, but to no avail.


44’ — Neres pulls Gnabry down on the sideline. Free kick Bayern.

Party animal Louis van Gaal is in attendance at the Cruyff Arena!


41’ — Yellow card: Matthijs de Ligt receives a yellow card after stepping hard on Müller’s foot. He made sure to apologize.


39’ — It’s a game of follow the bouncing ball, as both Ajax and Bayern fight for possession at breakneck pace. Ajax finally collect it and launch another attack.


37’ — Yellow card: Rafinha receives a yellow card for a late tackle.


31’ — Ajax nearly win yet another golden chance on a free kick from well outside the box. The ball catches Goretzka square in the belly and it drops to Alaba’s feet before it is cleared.


30’ — Kimmich hits the deck again as he is lightly fouled by Van de Beek.


28’ — Yellow card: Kimmich screams at the referee for not awarding a penalty. He awards Kimmich a yellow card instead.


27’ — Ajax have a close call: Thomas Müller rushes forward on the attack and lays the ball off for Serge Gnabry on the right. Gnabry passes inside to Lewandowski, but his shot is blocked by the keeper. Kimmich attempts to volley the rebound, but fires the ball over the goal as he collides with a defender and goes down.


26’ — Neres drives out wide and fires a cross back for Van de Beek, but Neuer makes a solid save.


25’ — Ribery weaves back and forth in Ajax’s penalty area, switching from left to right, but all he can muster is a feeble shot easily collected by Onana.


21’ — Another tense scene: Neuer rushes out to catch the ball in the air, but collides with Gnabry as he lands, dropping it. He’s able to recover the ball, before anything more dramatic happens, but he seems none too pleased with his teammate. Bayern seems to be playing on edge.


19’ — Nervy scene in Bayern’s penalty area. Neuer seems frustrated after David Alaba fails to stop a quick counter-attack. The defense tracks back to contain the threat, but cannot pry the ball away. Finally Boateng ends up one on one with David Blind. Blind goes to the ground, while Boateng waves his hand in a circle, claiming it was a dive. Ajax are awarded a corner.


17’ — Finding himself about to be dispossessed after a fine succession of short passes, Ziyech takes a shot from distance. Neuer is ready and catches it.


13’ — GOAL Bayern! Gnabry immediately redeems himself with a picture perfect long forward pass to Lewandowski, who is just onside. Lewy controls the ball in the box and puts it effortlessly past Onana.


12’ — Gnabry does it again: he intercepts a lazy back pass and streaks away toward the goal. But although his takes a powerful shot, the keeper is able to deflect it out of bounds.


10’ — Ajax fires yet another dangerous cross in from the right flank, but Tadic cannot bring it down.


9’ — Bayern finally win the ball, and Serge Gnabry steams forward. It’s three vs two, as Müller and Lewandowski run with him. Lewy is wide open, but Gnabry shoots feebly into the keeper rather than pass. Lewandowski shouts at him in frustration.


7’ — Ajax win a free kick as Leon Goretzka fouls Neres. After several frenetic minutes, Ajax has been slowly searching for a way forward from their defenders. They are packing the midfield and looking for openings between Bayern’s center-backs and outside-backs.


5’ — Lewandowski shoots wide from near the edge of the box.


3’ — Ajax responds with an attack of their own. Donny van de Beek deftly creates a one-two in Bayern’s penalty area but cannot put any force behind his shot, which Neuer safely corrals.


2’ — Serge Gnabry dribbles forward up the middle and takes the first shot of the game just wide of Ajax’s net.


kickoff — And we’re underway. Ajax starts with the ball and immediately boots it up field.


90 minutes before kickoff: That was fast! The lineups came out early today! Kovac lived up to his word — it’s the exact same one from the weekend.


The Champions League is back! For their last European game of 2018, Bayern Munich take on AFC Ajax at the Johan Cryuff Arena in Amsterdam. When these two teams last met, an incredible performance from Manuel Neuer was the only thing that kept the Dutchmen from running riot. Now, Ajax stand in the way of the Bavarians and a spot at the top of the group.

Niko Kovac isn’t going to pull his punches for this one. Even though Corentin Tolisso, James Rodriguez, and Arjen Robben are all injured, we likely wouldn’t have seen them play anyway. The coach has said that he intends to field the exact same lineup as the one that beat Bremen and Nurnberg, with maybe a change or two here and there. The changes could mean that Kingsley Coman or Thiago Alcantara get to play, but don’t expect stalwarts like Thomas Muller or Robert Lewandowski to ride the bench.

This game is important for Bayern, in more ways than one. Since Benfica, the criticism has been that Bayern’s newfound form has coincided with a run of easy games against weak teams. If Niko Kovac can pull off a result against Ajax, those criticisms will disappear. However, if he fails, then it’s likely that talks of a crisis will once again return to the Bavarian capital. For the sake of the team, we hope that doesn’t come to pass.

It’s Bayern time.


Match Info

Location: Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Time: 9 pm local time, 3 pm EST

TV/streaming: Fubo.tv, Find Your Country

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