Bayern Munich consider themselves one of the favorites to win this years UEFA Women’s Champions League. Tuesday’s inauspicious start to the campaign in the scoreless draw away to Benfica, however, shows that there is still work to do.
Scheuer got his starting lineup wrong.
Coach Jens Scheuer sent the squad out officially in a 4-1-4-1 formation that saw Saki Kumagai in front of the backline with Linda Dallmann and Viviane Asseyi in front of her and Giulia Gwinn and Sofia Jakobsson out wide on the flanks. I have to assume that this was done to give Sara Zadrazil and Lina Magull some rest, but that wasn’t going to be the case for long.
By playing Asseyi out of position in the middle instead of out wide, her ability to get out into space using her speed was negated as she had to stay back and help Dallmann with shuttling the ball between the backline and the attack.
Bayern regularly found themselves in the first half with Gwinn clustered on the sideline with Maxi Rall and Jakobsson too close Lea Schüller up top leaving Asseyi and Dallmann to cover a lot of space in the center of the field which isn’t their strength. This left Bayern’s right flank to get decimated repeatedly through counter after counter from Benfica. Quite frankly, if the Portuguese side were a better side, it’s very possible that we’re looking at a Bayern loss instead of a draw.
Magull and Zadrazil made all the difference in the midfield.
Adjustments, however, are key! Scheuer realized his mistake and brought on Magull and Zadrazil at the half, and Bayern proceeded to rip control of the game and hold it for the majority of the second half. With Kumagai and Gwinn dropping back into defense, Magull and Zadrazil partnered with Dallmann to complete the “normal” Bayern midfield trio.
At the end of the day, Bayern came away with 65% of the possession, completing 576 passes to Benfica’s 220. The change solidified Bayern’s stranglehold on the midfield, and effectively shut down Benfica’s counterattack.
Still, it feels as though Scheuer waited to long before bringing on Lineth Beerensteyn in favor of Jakobsson, and Bayern were never able to use their speed on the flanks to overwhelm Benfica’s defenders in this one.
Lea Schüller almost had a hat trick.
Bayern’s leading goalscorer nearly had herself a hat trick on the night; however, Schüller walks away from the match with nothing to show for it thanks to three wild attempts.
The first came early in the first half when she picked up a loose ball at the top of the box after a collision. She slipped right past a defender, and with only the goalkeeper left to beat, put her left footed shot wide of the frame. At the end of the day, it was a poor effort that she would normally bury 9 times out of 10. The second also came in the first half, when her shot was tipped over the the crossbar by Letícia, who was absolutely phenomenal in the Benfica goal.
Schüller then almost scored the goal of the season in the second half, but her near-roundhouse effort smashed off the crossbar instead of finding it’s way into the back of the net.
This sport is a game of inches. On another day, Schüller leaves this match with three goals. Today, she leaves with none.