Jersey Swap: Maximilian Beier
Maximilian Beier has had a phenomenal season for Hoffenheim so far and, despite drawing a blank today, the young forward showed the world why he is so good. Few players rival Dayot Upamecano for pace, speed and power but Beier regularly did today, nipping in ahead of his opponent and constantly running at the backpedaling Frenchman, forcing Bayern Munich’s defense into many nervy moments. He missed his chances and that will definitely haunt him tonight, but it would be wrong to not praise the rest of his outstanding performance.
Der Kaiser: Manuel Neuer
In a match draped in the sorrow of Franz Beckenbauer’s recent passing, it is pertinent to remember to note that “Der Kaiser” (the Emperor) was Beckenbauer’s nickname. The greatest defender in Bayern’s history earned this nickname after imperious performances where he transcended the role of center-back, redefined it and dominated completely. So how fitting is it that Manuel Neuer, who has done wonder in revolutionizing the position of goalkeeper, (so very much like Beckenbauer himself) pulls out this kind of performance?
After 45 minutes, this award was likely going to either Matthijs De Ligt or Upamecano, who were having solid games, giving Neuer little to do. However, the defense suddenly buckled around the hour mark, putting the goal under immense pressure. Luckily, Neuer was up to the task when his center-backs were not, pulling out some top class saves to preserve the clean sheet for Bayern. What a way to celebrate 500 appearances for Bayern. Beckenbauer will be looking down from the heavens, delighted.
Der Fußballgott: Raphaël Guerreiro
It was perhaps a bit of a surprise to Raphaël Guerreiro start ahead of Leon Goretzka today, but the Portuguese showed he earned the starting spot with a lively performance. He was a fantastic creative outlet today, consistently finding teammates with difficult passes, running the show and exercising control over the outing. The former Borussia Dortmund player even ran a lot and if Guerreiro is running, you know he is up for it.
He was also involved for the first two goals. While his involvement for the first may have been limited to a simple pass after a set piece routine, it was his brilliant dummy run that gave Musiala the chance to combine with Sane en route to the second goal. Though Guerreiro was subbed off today, he could sit back on the bench, happy at a sterling performance.
Der Bomber: Leroy Sané
It wasn’t Leroy Sané’s best game. None of the attackers really sparkled aside from the obvious exception, but it is gratifying to see how threatening Sané was for the opposition backline even when he was not at his best. The former Manchester City man has had the rather nasty habit of disappearing when it is not his best game in recent season, but here he pushed on through, kept running hard and kept the opposition backline on its toes throughout. Hoffenheim were forced to send double or even triple the amount of players to get at him. And even then, Sané ended the night with two smart assists. Not bad at all.
Man of the Match: Jamal Musiala
Obviously. Anybody who watched the match could have told you this. In a rather drab first half, Musiala lit up the game with a phenomenally taken shot after Hoffenheim were slow to to realize the danger following a short corner routine. How Musiala squeezed the shot past Oliver Baumann, only he knows. But that was not the only moment of brilliance the 20-year-old demonstrated. Again and again, a brilliant display of skill or intelligent movement or light feet allowed him to float past the opposition in a moment’s notice, as if he were never there, forcing the opposition to scurry after him in a panic.
He was unlucky not to score again early in the second half, but Sané’s vision allowed him to squeeze a shot into the net again for just his fifth Bundesliga goal of the season to effectively decide the contest. And even then, Musiala just kept going. He did not stop running at opponents and causing them headaches until the final whistle blew. We have seen this kind of performance from Musiala in previous games where he was unable to crown those performances with goals. That was definitely not the case against Hoffenheim.