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Five observations on Bayern’s strange win against Besiktas

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A look at the good, bad and the weird in a Bayern Munich win that somehow didn’t really feel like a win.

A cat runs and jumps on the field during the UEFA Champions League Round 16 return match between Besiktas and FC Bayern Munich at Vodafone Park in Istanbul, Turkey on March 14, 2018. Match is interrupted for a while by a cat.
Besiktas' ginger cat at Vodafone Park in Istanbul, March 14, 2018.
Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Unusual glaring deficits in the defence

Besiktas midfielder Jeremain Lens (C) is tackled by Bayern Munich's German defender Mats Hummels (L) and Bayern Munich's German defender Jerome Boateng (R) during the second leg of the last 16 UEFA Champions League football match between Besiktas and Bayern Munich at Besiktas Park in Istanbul on March 14, 2018.
Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, March 14, 2018.
Photo by Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images

For the first time that I can remember I really had the feeling today that the defence looked old. Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels both got yellow cards within 6 minutes of each other, meaning that Süle had to come on at the start of the second half. Hummels was beaten over the top and looked a bit slow, while Boateng’s tackling wasn’t clean and he couldn’t clear Vágner Love’s shot off the line.

Rafinha got a yellow in the second half that should have been a red. Besides almost being sent off, Rafinha played a host of shoddy passes, sometimes straight to the opposition and came late on more than one tackle. Rather than using his chance, he showed that he is by no means an adequate replacement for Joshua Kimmich. His deflected pass that became an own-goal does not change that fact.

The epitome of the bad play was Besiktas’ goal, which started with a sloppy Alaba, then lots of space for Besiktas to play into, Vidal sliding in wildly (which would have probably made it a penalty if it hadn’t been a goal) and Boateng and Sven Ulreich failing to stop the shot. Ulreich, although stopping well for most of the game, also made some unusually bad passes.

In a post-game interview with ZDF Heynckes said that it is only human to switch off a little when you’re leading so high. Let’s hope that the central defence don’t decline further as the year goes on. Otherwise the rejuvenation conversation we are having about Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben this year may be about our central defence next year.

Müller [the only] standout

Rafinha (13) of Bayern Munich celebrates with his teammates after his cross turned into an own goal scored by Gokhan Gonul of Besiktas during the UEFA Champions League Round 16 return match between Besiktas and FC Bayern Munich at Vodafone Park in Istanbul, Turkey on March 14, 2018.
Rafinha celebrates his wayward cross with Thomas Müller, Istanbul, March 14, 2018.
Photo by Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In a game where the whole team had a rather shaky game, Thomas Müller made the difference, picking out Thiago and showcasing his danger off the right wing. Thiago also showed promise until the premature end to his evening early in the game. As a side note, on many goals that Thiago scores he manages to make good runs into the box from deep midfield, usually at the back post. Would he therefore be wasted if he is played too deep, as part of the 2 no.6 players in a 4-2-3-1?

No rest for the best

Heynckes didn’t let anyone take a day off, playing arguably his best lineup. The performance didn’t show it. Kimmich was out because he already has 2 yellow cards, other players due to injury. But tiredness can’t have been an excuse for the bad performance, especially when Bayern's last game was against Hamburg and the opposition today was resting 5 key players. In an interview with ZDF after the game Müller himself said that “the second half [particularly] didn’t feel good,” noting that the team had an unusually negative feeling after a 3:1 win in the Champions League.

Wagner vs Lewy

Sandro Wagner of FC Bayern Munich celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League Round 16 return match between Besiktas and FC Bayern Munich at Vodafone Park in Istanbul, Turkey on March 14, 2018.
Sandro Wagner turns it up in Istanbul, March 14, 2018.
Photo by Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Sandro Wagner came on for the last 22 minutes and arguably played better than Robert Lewandowski in the previous 68. Both had two shots on goal in that time (Wagner scored, Lewy didn’t). Wagner also had two successful dribbles to Lewy’s one. Both Wagner and Lewy had only two incomplete passes, although the Pole attempted two more. Wagner, in turn, completed a cross, while Lewy did not.

Most of all, however, Wagner’s presence could be felt more than that of the Polish captain when he came on. He challenged the ball more fiercely, defended it well to win Bayern time and a free kick, and he even almost started a counter attack with his limited speed. The big difference was the effort he put in.

It was a weird game

While the game as a whole had a weird feel to it, there were certain things that definitely stood out:

  • The stadium of Besiktas Istanbul is loud, very loud and known for it. ZDF commentator Béla Réthy said during his in-game commentary that they had measured 100 decibels. That is comparable to a jet take-off at 305 meters or a jackhammer. Funnily enough, after the 1:0 it became so quiet that you could very clearly hear the few thousand Bayern fans chanting.
  • At the start of the second half Besiktas forgot that they had switched sides. A Besiktas player scored within 30 seconds of the restart; unfortunately he clearly didn’t realise that after the break it was the wrong goal to score in.
  • Istanbul is also known as the city of cats. Not without good reason as we found out int he second half when a ginger cat managed to make it onto the pitch causing a halt to the game for a few minutes. Time that, incidentally, was not added at the end of the game because the referee probably wanted to put Besiktas out of their misery.