Take yourself back three months. The DFB-Pokal final, in Berlin. A match where FC Bayern München were expected to win easily, but were felled by an inspired Eintracht Frankfurt. Today, with former Eintracht coach Niko Kovač in the Bayern hot seat, normal service was resumed.
For some, the Super Cup signals the start of the German season. For others, it marks the end of the ever-extending glut of preseason warmups. No matter what one thinks about this league v cup winners’ match up, the reality is that no team ever wants to give it away.
Cup winners Frankfurt had seen their coach make their way to Munich during the summer, but were hoping for a repeat of their shock 3:1 win in Berlin. Under new coach Adi Hütter, things could not have turned out any worse. In Berlin, Die Adler had soared. Here, on their home turf, they had their wings clipped.
Ending with a whimper
For Bayern, the 2017/18 season had ended with a whimper. They had been looking at a possible treble at the start of May, but yet another painful defeat by Real Madrid saw the Bavarians fall in the Champions League semi-final. After that, there was the shocking 1:4 defeat at home to VfB Stuttgart, in what had been billed as Jupp Heynckes’ farewell.
One could say that there was a sense of inevitability about the cup final defeat in Berlin. When Frankfurt hit their third goal to seal a deserved win, all we could do was emit a collective sigh. Just a couple of weeks earlier, an inexperienced Bayern side had hammered the same opponents 4:1.
Despite the turnaround engineered by Heynckes, Bayern were tired at the end of last season. This was taken into the summer’s World Cup, where Germany were eliminated in the first round for the first time in 80 years. Elsewhere, striker Robert Lewandowski also bombed out.
The Pole had been a source of considerable irritation for many Bayern fans. Once again, he had failed to show up in the big games. The constant talk of him wanting to leave he club did not help. As the summer transfer window opened, there were no takers. It looked like Bayern were going to be left with an expensive bench-warmer.
During the summer break, the gossip over Lewandowski continued. He was staying. Then he was going. He wanted to leave. He wanted to stay. Wherever you looked, there was a different flavour of gossip. I had already said my bit, and decided to concentrate on watching football. As far as Lewy was concerned, it was all about what he did on the pitch.
In front of a packed crowd at the Commerzbank Arena, it could not have gone any better for the Polish striker. After 21 minutes and against the run of play, he nodded a simple header past ‘keeper Fredik Rønnow. The Frankfurt defence was shambolic as they failed to deal with Joshua Kimmich’s cross, but it wasn’t hard to imagine Lewy missing the same chance at the end of last season.
The goal swung the momentum towards the Bundesliga champions. Eintracht tried their hardest, but it was not enough. Within five minutes, Lewandowski had doubled Bayern’s lead. Another well-placed header, this time from an Arjen Robben corner.
Where was this Robert Lewandowski at the end of last season? Had he been away in hiding, while we were watching his alter ego Emil?
Nine minutes into the second half, Bayern and Lewy scored their third. The finish was a little lucky as it came off the unfortunate Rønnow before bobbling into the net, but it was well deserved. With the match ball safe, others could have a chance.
Three minutes past the hour, substitute Kingsley Coman, on for Robben, made it four. After a powerful charge down the left by David Alaba, it was easy pickings for the young French winger.
As Kovač starting to make changes off the bench, Bayern slipped into comfort mode. The best of the five goals came with five minutes remaining, and was arguably the best of the lot. Skinning everybody down the right, the electric Coman made his way to the byline, skipped over a desperate defender, and put the ball on a plate for Thiago Alcântara. The Spaniard finished with equal aplomb.
There was time for sub Sandro Wagner to make it a round half dozen, but the big striker got in a complete tangle with the empty goal at his mercy. Nobody was too bothered though. Bayern had claimed a third straight Super Cup victory, and their seventh in all.
If there was one downside, it was the sight of Alaba limping off with what looked like a serious injury after 77 minutes, leaving Bayern with ten men.
Just the start
Frankfurt were not great, and we should not read too much into the result. It is just the start of what will surely be another long and hard slog. If Kovač’s team can match this result against tougher opponents later on in the season, we will all be happy.
Next up, it is the first round of the DFB-Pokal. With yet another David versus Bavarian Goliath encounter.
While it is the match of a lifetime for fourth-tier SV Drochtersen/Assel, we should perhaps remember that Bayern cannot take these games for granted. Some of us are old enough to remember FV Weinheim 09 in 1990, TSV Vestenbergsgreuth in 1994, and 1. FC Magdeburg in 1990.
Eintracht Frankfurt – FC Bayern München 0:5 (0:2)
– / Lewandowski 21., 26., 54., Coman 63., Thiago 85.
Frankfurt: Rønnow – Abraham, Hasebe, Salcedo – da Costa, Torro, de Guzman (64. Rebić), Willems – Fabian (64. Blum), Gaćinović – Haller (76. Jović)
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels, Alaba – Martínez – Müller (64. Goretzka), Thiago – Robben (58. Coman), Ribery – Lewandowski (72. Wagner)
Referee: Marco Fritz (Korb)
Yellow Cards: Abraham 70. / Hummels 45.
Red Cards: – / –
Shots: 8 / 13
Passes: 300 / 671
Completed Passes: 231 / 595
Pass Success: 77% / 89%
Possession: 32% / 68%
Fouls: 8 / 9
Offsides: 0 / 2
Corners: 3 / 5