Bayern Munich’s games against Augsburg are always gritty, and today’s game was no exception. Augsburg’s defensive organization gave Bayern all sorts of problems early in the game, as Martin Schmidt’s tactics nullified Bayern’s attack and isolated players like Joshua Zirkzee and Serge Gnabry. The Bayern players looked frustrated when good through-balls and crosses yielded no fruit.
Enter coach Hansi Flick. Legend has it that Hansi Flick has a barrel of the magical potion from the Asterix comics, and that he administers it to the players when the team can’t seem to find a breakthrough. But seriously, his halftime pep talk saw an invigorated Bayern squad walk back out of the tunnel. After another half of toiling, Bayern put Augsburg away with a deserved 2-0 victory.
Without further ado, here are the match awards:
Jersey Swap: Andreas Luthe
This was one award that was never in doubt, because despite the loss, Augsburg’s towering goalkeeper Luthe gave one of this season’s finest performances at goal, making at least four unbelievable saves to put the Bayern front line into misery. His impeccable positioning and timely clearances kept Bayern at bay in the first half, and he made numerous point-blank saves in the second half to deny Zirkzee, Gnabry, and Thomas Müller on more than one occasion. Maybe all these keepers are just putting in Neueresque performances to compete and showcase their abilities before our Supermanu. Luthe should be proud of his performance today.
Bonus: The entire Augsburg defense, for phenomenal positioning, and limiting Bayern’s chances with their intense counterpress.
Tip of the Cap: Jerome Boateng
Looks like he’s back to his old self. Apart from a freak pass to Manuel Neuer in the first half that could’ve had troubling results, Boateng was absolutely solid today. His interceptions were well timed, his runs back to help the defense were valuable, but, most importantly, he showed once again why he is one of the centre-backs to have defined the ball-playing game. His lateral passes from the back and incisive defense splitting passes gave the Augsburg midfield headaches all evening, and he topped it all up with an exquisite ball over the top for Müller, who only had to tap it into goal. This man may have lost his form of old, but he still has a few aces up his sleeve.
Golf Clap: Thomas Müller
The Raumdeuter strikes again! As always, Müller was there to save the day for Bayern when things looked dire. After an entire half of wasted chances and fruitless passing, a ball over the top from Boateng was all it took for Müller to make his marauding run into the penalty area and put the ball into the back of the net with his left foot fora fine finish. His spatial awareness and attacking intelligence was on full display when he supplied his fellow attackers with great through balls and decent crosses. He would definitely have found himself further below in the awards today had his crossing been at its usual level. This form of his will be crucial for Bayern’s silverware ambitions this season.
Standing ovation: Manuel Neuer
Nowadays, there is, or should be, very little debate over who the best goalkeeper in the world is. Neuer, on current form, is just that. He was brilliant between the sticks today, making some typical Neuer clearances and some risky but, in hindsight, well-calculated runs to clear the ball away from danger, snuffing out many Augsburg counter-attacks. His most noteworthy moment of the game came during an Augsburg counter (surprise, surprise!) when a cross found Niederlechner, who blasted the ball towards goal from close range, calling Neuer into action, who parried the ball away in what was an astounding reaction save. The Bayern captain is back to his absolute best, and the numbers say it all — the last time a club scored against Bayern was almost 400 minutes ago (Paderborn, 4 games back)!
Meister of the match: Thiago Alcantara
Was there any doubt? This man continues his invincible form, with a game high 5 dribbles and 4 aerial challenges won from the central midfield position. He was there to bail out the Bayern defense on numerous occasions, and his presence was equally felt in the attack, where he waltzed and slalomed his way through the Augsburg midfield like he was taking a jog through the park. His head-fakes, quick turns, bursts of pace and acceleration and beautiful long balls made Bayern’s game so much more desirable to watch, while his ball distribution helped the offensive players spread the game out and go at the defense with more ease. All in all, another top-notch performance from the Spaniard, who Bayern should, and most probably will not let go off this summer. I smell a contract.
Benjamin Pavard — Where would we be without the Frenchman? He was all over the right flank today, making vital interceptions, including a splendid tackle in the first half to stop a quick Augsburg counter and some good balls to Gnabry and Müller to carry forward good attacking moves. A massively underrated player who is often taken for granted, Pavard once again play a very solid game at right-back.
Serge Gnabry — His own finishing prevented him from getting an award today. His passing in the final third and one-two’s with teammates were highlights, with one of the best Bayern moves of the season being a four-pass sequence between him and Gnabry resulting in a great late goal for Bayern. His finishing left a lot to be desired though, and Müller will surely be unhappy he doesn’t have two more assists in the Bundesliga.
Leon Goretzka — Our possible solution to the temporary striker problem? Introduced for Zirkzee late in the game (who was having a very poor show), Goretzka immediately increased the potency of Bayern’s attacking threat. With his height, physicality and speed, he put the Augsburg defenders on red alert every time he had the ball, leading to them moving back deep, giving Bayern more space to pass around and generate chances.
His goal was a result of some brilliant interlinking between him and Gnabry, and he maintained his composure to score with an ice-cold finish. With 2 Bundesliga goals in 2 games, could he be our solution up front when Zee doesn’t perform?