While Bayern Munich’s men’s team may have bowed out of the Champions League early, the Frauen are still fighting in the semi-final. They met Barcelona in Munich today, but it was a first leg to forget. The scoreline only shows a 1-0 defeat, but the truth is that Barcelona deserved a lot more. They hit the woodwork twice and suffocated most Bayern buildups before they gained any momentum. To talk a little more about the match, we’ll go to our traditional observations format. Here then are three takeaways from the Bayern Frauen’s 1-0 defeat to Barcelona:
Struggling to connect through the middle
Often the Bayern defense neutralized a Barcelona attack only to give the ball right back. It didn’t always happen immediately, but the Bavarians rarely moved the ball past the halfway line unless it came from a defensive clearance. Sometimes the Mädels strung some passes together, but they found it difficult to breakdown the opposition midfield. Hence they turned to more of a kick-and-run strategy, hoping that the speed of striker Jovana Damnjanovic would bail them out, but the scheme failed to work.
As expected, the Frauen’s failure to get the ball out of their own half eventually led to a golden opportunity for Barcelona’s Kheira Hamraoui, who calmly placed the ball in the bottom corner of the net. If the Frauen want any chance of making the final, they’re going to have to figure out a way to break down the Barcelona midfield. As soon as that’s done, they can find the feet of Sara Däbritz and Fridolina Rolfö, both of whom are more than capable of taking on defenders and producing moments of brilliance.
You can tell from just the four yellow cards the Frauen accumulated that they were overly aggressive and impatient. Dominika Skorvankova fell victim to this overeagerness at the start of the second half, when Barcelona winger Lieke Martens drove inside and lured Skorvankova into a clumsy slide tackle for a yellow. The same thing almost happened again just minutes later — but this time a penalty would have been the consequence. Kathrin Hendrich dove in behind Martens and was lucky that the referee was lenient in making a no-call. These specific incidents, moreover, were completely avoidable. Think about what all defenders are taught from a young age: keep the attacker in front of you, don’t dive in because that’s what an attack exploits. Rather than conceding set pieces in dangerous positions or potential penalties, it’s better to remain calm and take advantage when an attacker makes a mistake or reveals too much. The defense has to remember, the deficit is only one goal. Desperation shouldn’t set in just yet.
Throughout the game, the Bayern Frauen took 17 total shots, but only 4 hit the target. Barcelona arguably did little better with only 2 of 13 on goal. The difference was that the visitors were efficient with their chances. Also, the stat sheet hides the two shots that hit the post that would have put the game beyond Bayern’s grasp. Too many of the Bavarians’ shots were skied into the stands from relatively dangerous areas. It seems like profligacy has taken the hold of both Bayern teams: the men also struggled to find the goal in their 1-0 win over Werder Bremen. Sara Däbritz almost offset her team’s wastefulness with a free kick late in the game. She lofted the ball over the wall, but it just failed to dip enough and came back off the crossbar. Should the women find their finishing touch in the away leg, we could be in for a big finish ahead of the final in Budapest.
The second leg of the tie takes place next Sunday, April 28. Seeing as how they carried the first leg, it’s safe to assume that Bayern Munich’s official YouTube channel will also stream this one. I highly recommend tuning in. The world of women’s soccer is often overlooked, but the Frauen deserve your attention and respect. They’re amazing soccer players who are passionate about their love of the sport, and that passion is a joy to watch on the field.