Julian Nagelsmann channels his inner Real Madrid
What a robbery. And no, I’m not talking about Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery here. FC Barcelona came to the Allianz Arena and stamped their authority on the game. In the first half, they had Bayern Munich by the throat. It was totally one-sided. Robert Lewandowski was fed chances on a platter.
Final score? 2-0 to the Bavarians.
This result has massive Real Madrid energy, to be honest. Remember all those times Bayern played Zidane’s Real off the pitch, but ended up on the wrong end of the score? That’s what happened here tonight. Bayern Munich got battered today, but the team held the line. By keeping the scoreline close, it was always going to be anyone’s game. And then, in the second half, the Bavarians sprung — from a corner no less! Run of play? What’s that? Doesn’t matter at all.
Football is such a funny game. You can dominate 90% of a match but lose everything in just four minutes. That’s what happened to Barca today. It’s gotta sting for them, but it feels absolutely amazing to finally be on the end of one these results.
Heroic defending saves the day
This game was a boxing match and Bayern were on the receiving end. Barca were throwing uppercuts and haymakers all night long. Bayern had to hang on. Dig in. Grit their teeth and weather the storm. All waiting for one single opportunity — the knockout punch.
This kind of result doesn’t happen without some heroic defending. That’s not hyperbole, the defenders WERE heroes today. Alphonso Davies probably had the best individual performance throughout the game, winning almost all his major duels even after Xavi switched Raphinha and Dembele’s flanks. He terrorized that Barca right flank and was an essential outlet for the team in the first half, when every other avenue seemed closed.
Lucas Hernandez was simply in the way of everything. His manhandling of Robert Lewandowski late in the second half sums up his game. The Frenchman was imperious, a moving wall that seemed to just be in the right place at the right time for the entire night.
Dayot Upamecano did not get the Hollywood highlight reel of his colleagues, but spared Manuel Neuer several blushes by recovering the ball from some botched passes. And finally, Noussair Mazraoui had to come on cold after the sudden injury to Benjamin Pavard, and he proved his worth with a clinical defensive performance that will surely get him more minutes in the starting XI.
Overall, standing ovation for all four of these men. They made this result possible.
Leon Goretzka proves his worth
In the first half, Barca had Bayern on a leash. The physicality of Pedri, Gavi, and Busquets was overrunning the midfield. Judging by Nagelsmann’s worried expression on the sidelines as Joshua Kimmich and Marcel Sabitzer struggled to progress the ball, he failed to anticipate this.
Leon Goretzka’s halftime substitution changed all that. His appearance meant Bayern now had a proper ball carrier in midfield, as well as a player who could win those pesky second balls that were going astray in the first half. Goretzka’s height and physicality also helped the Bavarians stamp some kind of authority on a game that had been slipping away up till that point. His arrival turned leveled the playing field in what had been a mostly one-sided affair in the center of the pitch.
Were the haters right about Robert Lewandowski?
Another big Champions League game, another poor performance from Robert Lewandowski. The former Bayern man wasn’t lacking chances, but he couldn’t seem to find the net even once. You had the impression that Barca were desperately looking for something ... for that single inroad that would let the floodgates open. Lewandowski was their tool to do just that, and he failed.
Lewandowski rushed out of the stadium and only told reporters on his return: "It wasn't so easy" [@altobelli13]— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) September 13, 2022
Maybe he just isn’t cut out for this kind of game?
Consequences for the future
This game will cost Bayern Munich. The performance in the first half was poor. Certain players, like Thomas Muller and Sadio Mane, had very lackluster outings. Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez both went off injured and could be looking at lengthy spells on the sidelines. Dayot Upamecano took a knock to the knee and limped out of the stadium.
Julian Nagelsmann’s job is getting tougher by the minute.
There are serious issues in attack. The passing is not up to snuff. Manuel Neuer’s distribution seems to get worse by the game. And the midfield logjam isn’t getting any easier to figure out after Goretzka’s performance tonight. Performances are needed, and quickly.
For Barca, this will be a learning experience. You can be sure that when Xavi lines up his team against Bayern at the Camp Nou, his new-look side will be even better and ready to avenge this (somewhat unfortunate) defeat.
They are probably going to challenge Bayern for top spot in this group. Inter, unfortunately, are leagues away from both FCBs, and Plzen isn’t even playing the same sport. You have to give credit to the way Barca have rebuilt. Last year, Bayern played two lazy matches where the 3-0 wins were basically an afterthought. Now, Barca just went toe-to-toe with this team in front of a full crowd at the Allianz Arena.
They’re certainly going to make a game of it at the Camp Nou.
Interested in more discussion of the game? Check our our postgame podcast! Listen to it below or at this link.
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