Bayern Munich faced title rivals RB Leipzig away and came out deserved winners in what was an intelligent display. Julian Nagelsmann’s side came out roaring at the early stages, mounting the pressure on the Bayern defense, but the Bavarians were able to assert their control as the game progressed, putting in a mature, clever shift. Bayern were able to edge the game 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Leon Goretzka. It was yet another tactical masterclass from Hansi Flick.
The win would serve as much-needed motivation heading into what would arguably be Bayern’s toughest fixture of the season thus far, the Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Paris Saint-Germain. Here are the observations for the game:
An intelligent first half setup sees Bayern through
Flick is a master tactician. I know that’s not news to you, but the way he set up Bayern in the first half was nothing short of genius. Leipzig started with a lot of ferocity, but Bayern’s deeper than usual defensive line allowed Leipzig to spring forward time and time again — only to have every attempt thwarted. This led the Leipzig forwards to slowly tire out as the half progressed, giving Bayern more possession and therefore, greater control.
The coach could’ve opted for Serge Gnabry or Thomas Müller up front instead, but he chose Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to lead the line, and that almost paid off multiple times. Choupo-Moting generated at least two direct goal-scoring opportunities this game, and on a normal day Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sané would bag those chances. He was unlucky not to have had at least two assists, and his game intelligence was also on full display.
This setup allowed Müller to do his raumdeutering, leading to Bayern’s only goal which was assisted by some great footwork and vision from the Bavarian legend. It will be interesting to see which approach Flick adopts against PSG, but be assured: this man has got this.
Wait, WHAT?!! A CLEAN SHEET?!
Yes, you heard that right. Bayern kept a clean sheet after what seems like ages of poor defending in games (especially the latter stages), being caught ball watching and just being sluggish at the back for no reason. Niklas Süle and David Alaba defended well for large parts of the game, and although Bayern was really lucky not to concede at least two goals in the second half (thanks to Leipzig’s poor finishing), the center-backs covered the half spaces really well.
The fullbacks though, had an even more solid game. Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez were stellar on the flanks, and kept Leipzig’s attackers at bay for the most part. Lucas in particular, had a really good game, putting in well-timed tackles, chipping in with interceptions and aerial duels and displaying his passing range, with long balls, through balls and some really good crosses. It feels great not to concede. Boy, how much we’ve missed this.
All-rounder Lewandowski’s absence felt
Sure, Bayern bagged the win, but it was a really hard earned, tough one. RB Leipzig had far more shots this game, and looked more dominant up front in the attack. Without Robert Lewandowski, Bayern seemed to lack their ‘X factor’. Lewandowski’s telepathic connection with Müller, his lethality in front of goal, his otherworldly finishing, superb work rate and hold-up play in midfield were all sorely missed, and Bayern’s attack looked quite blunt in the second half.
Choupo-Moting actually had a good game. His first touches were on point, and his hold up play and passing in the final third was spot on the few times he got the ball. However, it is a fact that he’s no Lewandowski, and one can’t help but wonder if Bayern would’ve scored at least two more with the Pole in the fray. That being said, Bayern got the win, so it’s obviously more than just ‘FC LewanGOALski’.
Defending inSané, attacking inSané
Out of all the players on the pitch today, Leroy Sané impressed me the most. He was really active up front, pressing Leipzig defenders back and giving them a tough time with his slaloming runs and great awareness. What was even more outstanding was his defensive input. Sané tracked back like never before, hunting down every lost ball and piling pressure on the Leipzig attackers all the time.
Sané is looking like a model Flick-type winger right now. He’s definitely been through a learning curve, and under Flick’s tutelage has added even more weapons to his arsenal. Bayern’s crop of wingers look ready to dominate Germany and Europe for years to come.
Manuel Neuer is our saviour
The undisputed GOATkeeper came up clutch again for Bayern. And he will keep putting in performances like these, because that is what Neuer does. It is true that most of us take him for granted at this point, but we’ve got to acknowledge splendid shifts like the one he put in today. Neuer made two stunning saves to keep the ball out of the net, and was called into action quite often, stepping in admirably and playing the role of sweeper to the best of his abilities.
Neuer was always a calming presence at the back, serving as a outlet for relieving the pressure on the back line, recirculating the ball and pinging in accurate long balls all over the pitch. It is quite probable that the result could’ve been quite different had Neuer not saved Marcel Sabitzer’s incredible long range belter early in the second half. This man’s on a mission, and let’s hope he guides us to another Bundesliga title and UCL victory.