Joshua Zirkzee started and played the full 90 minutes of Bayern Munich’s 6-0 rout of Hoffenheim, which was unfortunately overshadowed by protests from Bayern’s away fans during the second half. Zirkzee scored Bayern’s third goal of the match after taking a clever touch to give himself a yard of space from a low cross that was sent in by Serge Gnabry. He could have added a second to his tally later in the first half, but Oliver Baumann read the attempted lob well to deny him.
In the pre-Schalke press conference ahead of Bayern’s quarter-final clash in the DFB-Pokal in Gelsenkirchen, Hansi Flick explained his decision to start Zirkzee against Hoffenheim. There are, of course, other options Flick can use while Robert Lewandowski faces a four week spell on the sidelines due to a knee problem, but Flick has full confidence in Zirkzee from what he’s seen on the training pitch (AZ):
We didn’t want to change too much. Joshua Zirkzee is doing well in training and scoring a lot of goals, so I decided to let him step in for Lewandowski. Joshua’s performance [against Hoffenheim] was good, not top-notch, but pretty good. He scored a goal, which is important for a striker. He has plenty of room for improvement, though, and he knows that.
When news of Lewandowski’s knee injury first broke after Bayern’s Champions League triumph over Chelsea, kicker and other outlets reported that Gnabry was the most likely option at center-forward. On paper, it made the most sense, but Flick’s confidence in Zirkzee suggests that the 18-year-old will get a decent amount of minutes with a packed fixtures list across all competitions during Lewandowski’s injury layover.
A record JUST missed by Zirkzee
Zirkzee has now scored 3 goals with 3 registered shots on target in the Bundesliga from a total of 4 appearances in the top flight. In total, it’s taken Zirkzee 26 cumulative minutes to reach the 3-goal mark, which is only 3 more than Borussia Dortmund starlet Erling Haaland, who scored his first 3 Bundesliga goals in only 23 minutes when he came on as a sub and scored a hat-trick against Augsburg. Of course, Haaland has played a lot more minutes than Zirkzee, but the Norwegian has gone on to score 6 more Bundesliga goals since his debut as well as 2 in the Champions League and 1 in the DFB-Pokal.