It was well and truly a tale of two halves as Bayern Munich booked their ticket to Berlin for the DFB Pokal final by thrashing Bayer Leverkusen 6-2. When Leverkusen cut Bayern’s 2-0 lead in half in the 16th minute, they looked dangerous and were creating credible chances, looking dangerous on the counter attack.
Jersey Swap: Kevin Volland (first half) / Leon Bailey (second half). Because how different the two halves were, the jersey swap was split for this one. Volland proved to be quite the nuisance for Bayern in the first half and was unlucky not to have gotten on the score-sheet in all fairness. He was just marginally offside for what would’ve been an equalizer for Leverkusen in the 60th minute. Not surprisingly, when Bailey came on, he looked threatening in spurts operating down the left channel for Leverkusen and interchanging to the right sporadically. When Bailey stepped up to take his free-kick in the 72nd minute, there was nothing on his mind other than going for goal, and that’s exactly what he did, to great effect, albeit the goal was merely a consolation.
Tip of the Cap: Jerome Boateng/Rafinha. To be fair, Boateng made his fair share of mistakes, but a lot of his terrier-like challenges were incredibly timely for Bayern. What was also noticeable from his performance was the amount of tackles he completed inside of Leverkusen’s half, especially in the first half and the opening stages of the second half. Bayern were throwing numbers forward and Boateng made a handful of challenges in Leverkusen’s half that completely slowed down and/or thwarted their counter attacks. When Rafinha came on, Bayern’s defense looked slightly more stabilized than it did in the first half and the Brazilian did a decent job containing Karim Bellarabi, Benjamin Henrichs, and at times, Bailey.
Golf Clap: Thiago Alcantara. A goal and two assists was just the icing on the cake for yet another strong performance from the midfield maestro. Aside from having a direct hand in 3 of Bayern’s 6 goals, it was Thiago’s quick, precise passing that made him so effective. With the way Leverkusen were trying to quickly press Bayern, Thiago’s split-second vision was often what got Bayern into dangerous areas, surpassing Leverkusen’s high press. As the match went on, he seemed to grow more and more comfortable in possession and that’s exactly the type of confidence on the ball he’ll need to show if we’re to have a chance against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Lastly, take nothing away from his pinpoint assist for Muller’s first and third goals in addition to his tidy finish for his own goal; he showed brilliant presence of mind in each of those sequences.
Standing Ovation: Sven Ulreich. Quite frankly, had it not been for a number of fantastic saves from Ulreich in the first half, the scoreline at the halftime break could’ve been a lot different—in favor of Leverkusen. The DFB Pokal just seems to be a competition for which Ulreich really saves his heroics; who could forget his MOTM performance vs. RB Leipzig back in October? In all seriousness, Ulreich did just about everything right and you could hardly fault him for either of Leverkusen’s goals; Bender’s came on the tail end of a scrappy bit of defending from Bayern, and Bailey’s free-kick was simply unstoppable. Perhaps buoyed by Manuel Neuer’s nearing return to action, Ulreich has been superb in recent weeks, and he was once again a difference maker.
Meister of the match: Thomas Muller. The hat-trick hero deserves every bit of credit tossed his way for his performance in this one. Although Arjen Robben will have some arguments that he did all the work for Muller’s second goal, Thomas did incredibly well for his other goals. Aside from his brilliant finishes, Muller also worked characteristically hard on both sides of the ball for the entirety of his 80-minute shift before being replaced by James Rodriguez. There were countless sequences where he would be in a dead-on, full sprint to track back when Leverkusen would win possession in their own third and launch counter attacks; exactly the type of thing we want to see from our captain!
Take a f***ing bow, Thomas:
Thomas Muller receiving man of the match award— Bayern mania (@Bayern_mania) April 17, 2018
Well deserved pic.twitter.com/34NWtYvbhZ
HONORABLE MENTION: The true meister of Bayern Munich, JUPP HEYNCKES:
Honestly, what did Heynckes say during his halftime team talk, because Bayern were exceptionally better in the second half? Sure, a lot of the credit has to go to the players, but whatever Heynckes addressed during the break worked absolute wonders and ultimately sealed Bayern’s place in the final of this competition.