Just as we thought things could not get worse. SC Freiburg’s late equaliser means that FC Bayern München have not won at the Allianz Arena for four matches, their worst run since their move to the new ground in 2005. It is not a great time to be a Bayern fan right now.
Things are definitely not right in Munich, and the old adage “when it rains, it pours” is something of an understatement. It is one storm after another at the moment, both on and off the pitch. In addition to some very scratchy football, there have been stories of player disputes, Halloween party shenanigans, and revelations of elite super leagues.
Prior to this latest shambles at the Allianz Arena, Bayern had managed to stitch together four straight wins. The right results, but with none of style and swagger that has been missing for a while now. Yesterday, they were not so lucky. For nine minutes it looked as though Niko Kovač’s side had managed to squeeze out a fifth win on the bounce, but their less-heralded opponents had other ideas.
Rotation, rotation, rotation
For Bayern’s first match at the Allianz for just under a month, the coach flipped back from the starting eleven that had laboured to the 2:1 DFB-Pokal win over non-league SV Rödinghausen.
Jérôme Boateng was back in the back four in place of Javi Martínez, and the recalled Joshua Kimmich was slotted into the “six” role in place of the injured Thiago Alcântara, with Rafinha retaining the right-back spot. Elsewhere, it was simple rotation in action. James Rodríguez came in for Leon Goretzka, while up front Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry and Sandro Wagner made way for Arjen Robben, Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski.
It is starting to sound like a broken record, but Bayern were again quick out of the blocks. Settling into their usual routine, they controlled the ball and starting racking up the passes. This presented no great issue for Mainz, and Christian Streich’s side were more than willing to sit back and leave the Bavarians to it.
Like so many others before them, Streich and co. had done their homework. Kitted out in a pale blue Trikot that made them look like TSV 1860 München, the visitors were quick to close down the flanks. Gnabry tried manfully to weave something down the left, but was either closed down or forced into making a mistake. Robben, meanwhile, was seen in fits and starts.
In spite of Mainz’s defensive approach, Bayern were still able to carve out opportunities. Lewandowski had a fantastic chance to open scoring after 26 minutes, but contrived to make things easy for SCF ‘keeper Alexander Schwolow. Nine minutes later, Robben was denied.
Not surprisingly, Die Roten started to run out of steam. The start of the second half was sluggish and disjointed, and at times it looked like Bayern were waiting for their opponents to slip up. Gnabry was doing most of the work on his own, with Renato Sanches and James playing supporting roles.
In a rare venture out of their own half, Freiburg did have the ball in the Bayern net, but Tim Kleindienst’s effort was ruled out for offside. It broke the tedium, if just for a fleeting moment.
Three minutes after the hour, Robben’s number was up. The natural replacement should have been Thomas Müller, but the number seven flashed up on the board. It was a head-scratching moment. Frank Ribéry had been little more than useless in the midweek cup tie, yet there he was, stepping onto the pitch.
Did the coach really feel that the Frenchman could make an impact, or was it just one more doff of the cap to the A-listers? This was not the Niko Kovač I had seen at Frankfurt, a man who had often been willing to step out of the box.
When Müller did finally get onto the pitch, it was to replace James, who had been one of the few-half decent players in a red shirt. It prompted an “internet moment” that made more of a splash than the match itself.
In an Instagram post that was quickly deleted, Müller’s wife Lisa had a dig at the coach. A sarcastic comment, accompanied by a facepalm emoji. It was something any Bayern fan could have posted.
— Sky Sport (@SkySportDE) November 3, 2018
Needless to say, it quickly became viral. Lisa Müller almost immediately apologised to Kovač and Thomas laughed it off afterwards in his unique and inimitable style, but the rest of the world – including the club – decided to turn this non-story into something worthy of a public mention.
As if we didn’t have anything else to worry about.
Just as it was looking as though the game was going to peter out into a tame goalless draw, Bayern finally punctured the Freiburg defence. Charging into the box, Gnabry’s firm right-footed shot beat Schwolow at his near post to give him his first Bundesliga goal in Bayern colours. It looked as if the energetic Gnabry had given Bayern another hard-worked victory; in the stands, there were sighs of relief.
By simply playing as they had done for the previous eighty minutes, Bayern would have seen things out. But just three minutes after his goal, Gnabry was hauled off for Leon Goretzka.
Against a stronger opponent, one might have understood the logic behind this change. But this was not Real Madrid or Borussia Dortmund, but the mighty SC Freiburg. In deciding to batten down the hatches, it was a white flag moment. I am no sports psychology expert, but it clearly gave the Freiburg players a shot in the arm.
Throwing all caution to the wind, Streich’s men decided to go for broke. Having claimed the points already in their heads and realigned their tactics, Bayern were there to be attacked.
In a finish that mirrored the final moments against FC Augsburg, the reds were against given a firm punch to the gut. Having been untroubled for most of the afternoon, the Bayern defence was caught cold. Boateng and Süle both missed Lucas Höler, who charged between them to bury Christian Günter’s well-placed cross.
— Serge Gnabry (@SergeGnabry) November 3, 2018
On statistical balance, Freiburg, like Augsburg back in September, hardly deserved a point. But was a perfectly executed smash and grab. They had stuck to their game plan. Bayern had not.
FC Bayern München – SC Freiburg 1:1 (0:0)
Gnabry 80. / Höler 89.
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Süle, Boateng, Alaba – Kimmich – James (71. Müller), Renato Sanches – Robben (63. Ribéry), Gnabry (83. Goretzka) – Lewandowski
Freiburg: Schwolow – Stenzel, Gulde, Heintz, Günter – Koch, Höfler – Frantz (c) (67. Terrazzino), Haberer – Kleindienst (83. Waldschmidt), Höler (90. Lienhart)
Referee: Felix Zwayer (Berlin)
Yellow Cards: Rafinha 79. / Schwolow 79.
Red Cards: – / –
Shots: 24 / 10
Passes: 722 / 277
Completed Passes: 614 / 201
Pass Success: 89% / 73%
Possession: 72% / 28%
Fouls: 9 / 11
Offsides: 1 / 2
Corners: 14 / 2