Blundering Bayern unconvincing again as they squeeze past SV Rödinghausen in DFB-Pokal

FC Bayern München’s second round DFB-Pokal tie against fourth-tier SV Rödinghausen should have been a feast, but Bavarians ended up scrambling under the table for scraps. It was another win, but one that will be quickly forgotten.

After an encouraging start at VfL Osnabrück’s compact Stadion an der Bremer Brücke, Niko Kovač’s team were bogged down by a combination of the wet and windy weather, a brave opponent, and their continued inability to convert possession into goals. The final twist of the knife would come with an injury to Thiago Alcântara.

Niko rings the changes, Bayern fire early

The Bayern coach made four changes to the team that had started in Mainz at the weekend. Rafinha, Renato Sanches, Sandro Wagner and Franck Ribéry were brought back in, with Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski on the bench. Having caught a stomach bug, Jérôme Boateng was rested.

Die Roten were quick to take command, and were in front after just eight minutes. It was the result of a swift and incisive move. A long ball from Rafinha found Sanches out on the left, whose volleyed cross was met by Wagner at close range.

The gulf in class between the two teams was immediately evident. When the impressive Sanches was brought down in the box by Rödinghausen centre-back Fabian Kunze just five minutes later, Thomas Müller stepped up to score his first goal since the beginning of September, and his first successful spot-kick since April 2016.

Loss of momentum

Having doubled their lead inside the first fifteen minutes, Bayern were perfectly set to shift up the gears. With goals in short supply, an avalanche would have been more than welcome. After 23 minutes, they were awarded a second penalty. The decision was a soft one, but provided the perfect opportunity to stretch the lead.

This is where things started to go awry. The primary aim should have been to put the game beyond all reasonable doubt, with Müller again taking the kick. Instead, the task was delegated to Sanches, who duly smashed the ball against the crossbar.

This might have been no more than an attempt to build the 21-year-old’s confidence, but it was poorly timed. If anything, it might have had the opposite effect. Sanches had created the opening goal and had earned the second, and there was no obvious reason to deviate from the script.

On the one hand, it was a well-meaning plan that simply backfired. On the other, it had been a moment of arrogance that could have ended up with egg on Bavarian faces. Either way, it signalled a complete drop in tempo and loss of momentum.

Within seconds of the missed penalty, a dreadful pass from Müller almost set up Simon Engelmann at the other end. The striker was able to twist his way past Niklas Süle, but his angled shot rolled wide.

Eau de Vestenbergsgreuth

The second half started badly for the visitors, who had slowly started to slide back into their shell. Engelmann should have done better within a minute of the restart, but it was not long until the Regionalliga West outfit got themselves on the board.

In the 49th minute, Javi Martínez was shunted off the ball by Kelvin Lunga, who showed the Spaniard a clean pair of heels as he made his way down the right toward the byline. The cross was excellent, but there was a complete lack of red shirts in the danger area. Motoring away from Rafinha, Linus Meyer made good ground before sweeping the ball past Manuel Neuer from close range.

At that point, one was left wondering which team was the fourth-tier outfit. Bayern still had their narrow lead, but there was for a moment a whiff of Eau de Vestenbergsgreuth in the north German air. Meanwhile, the home team could start to smell blood.

Thankfully, there were no more goals. But the sight of Thiago being helped off the pitch after 75 minutes with a suspected ankle injury was one more sickening blow. Bayern tightened the valves and battened down the hatches.

This was beyond winning ugly. It was winning hideously. But the Bavarians were through.

Missed opportunity

When a team is not in great form, it makes perfect sense to stick with the tried and tested methods. Kovač’s team was clearly picked with this in mind. However, it was also a missed opportunity.

There were a number of younger players on the bench, many of whom play against the likes of SV Rödinghausen on a weekly basis. It was hardly a case of being thrown into the fire, and it might have been a good idea to give some of these younger players some decent game time.

Bayern continue to struggle in front of goal, and at the back they have often been made to look like a thin slice of Swiss cheese. But these are problems can be fixed. Yes, I still believe that they can be fixed. I do. Really.

Some of the performances have been well below par, but the team has still managed to secure their fourth win on the bounce.

More concerning is the injury list. Thiago has been one of the more consistent performers this season, and it looks as though he will be out for at least a month, possibly until the new year. With Leon Goretzka also unable to establish himself, things could start to unravel quickly.

We can expect plenty of tactical musical chairs over the next few weeks.

Statistical Summary

SV Rödinghausen – FC Bayern München 1:2 (0:2)
Meyer 49. / Wagner 8., Müller pen 13.

Rödinghausen: Heimann – Velagić, von Piechowski (71. Kalkan), Flottmann (c), Wolff, Knystock – F. Kunze, Pfanne – Lunga (58. Schlottke), Meyer (79. Mickels) – Engelmann

FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Süle, Martínez, Alaba – Thiago (75. Gnabry) – Goretzka (69. Kimmich), Renato Sanches – Müller, Ribéry (90. Shabani) – Wagner

Referee: Timo Gerach (Landau)
Attendance: 16,000

Yellow Cards: Flottmann 12., Velagić 23., Schlottke 73., Wolff 87. / Renato Sanches 78.
Red Cards: – / –

Shots: 4 / 25
Passes: 214 / 785
Completed Passes: 133 / 711
Pass Success: 62% / 92%
Possession: 22% / 78%
Fouls: 13 / 11
Offsides: 1 / 0
Corners: 0 / 8