FC Bayern back on the Bundesliga trail: Gnabry double seals tight win in Bremen

Over a month after their last Bundesliga win, FC Bayern München finally got their act together to beat a physical Werder Bremen at the Weserstadion. Despite dominating the contest, Niko Kovač’s men just about did enough. The hero was Serge Gnabry, who scored a welcome brace against his former team.

Bayern could and perhaps should have scored more, while the defensive errors continued with yet another soft goal for their opponents. Three points are safely in the bag, but clean sheets remain elusive.

Stable lineup, a solid start

Kovač would make just one change to the eleven that had started in midweek against Benfica, with the injured Arjen Robben replaced by the returning Serge Gnabry. Injuries have clearly deprived the Bayern coach of options, but there is also a feeling that he has found his key starters.

The bench was again pretty thin, but there was some good news with both Kingsley Coman and Thiago Alcântara fit enough to make a comeback. The return of the game-changer Coman, injured in the season opener against Hoffenheim, was particularly sweet for Bayern fans.

Having won their previous nine matches at the Weserstadion, Werder’s ground had become something of a home from home for the Bavarians, but there was a distinct feeling that this was going to be a little bit tougher. Florian Kohfeldt’s side were without a win in four matches, but clearly fancied their chances.

The visitors were quick off the blocks, and there was plenty of pressure placed on the home side in the early stages. After just seven minutes, Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski combined brilliantly to create the first decent chance. The Pole’s shot was on target, but Bremen ‘keeper Jiří Pavlenka pulled off an excellent block to deny him.

Gnabry breaks the deadlock, Werder fight back

Kovač’s men continued to press, and with nineteen minutes gone Franck Ribéry’s mazy run into the opposition box was ended by Theodor Gebre Selassie. The Frenchman clearly had his legs taken away by the Czech defender, but referee Christian Dingert waved play on.

The decision could have been taken to the video referee, but in the end it did not really matter. Die Roten continued to attack, and Joshua Kimmich’s lovely ball into the box found Gnabry, who beat Pavlenka at the second time of asking. After his rather nonchalant first effort had been parried by the ‘keeper, Gnabry’s volley from the rebound was coolly taken.

Werder quickly switched through the gears after falling behind. In what was their best spell of the match, Kohfeldt’s men laid siege to the Bayern goal.

Gebre Selassie tested Manuel Neuer with a grubber, and a dangerous cross from the Czech was cleared off the line by Niklas Süle with Johannes Eggestein ready to pounce at the far post. As Bayern struggled to clear their lines, Nuri Şahin launched a terrific long-range effort that was pushed aside by Neuer.

The red defence was creaking, and it was not long until their luck ran out.

It was yet another comedy of errors. As Max Kruse’s cross came in from the left, Süle was rooted to the spot. The green-shirted Yuya Osako was there first, beating a timid challenge from Jérôme Boateng. Possibly reacting to a call from Neuer, Boateng ducked under the ball, which took a deflection of the flapping ‘keeper before it hit the back of the net.

Once again, it was a scenario that no coach could fix. Yet another defensive blunder, resulting in yet another soft and silly goal. Standing by the touchline, Niko Kovač was suitably apoplectic.

Ribéry injured, Coman returns

With seven minutes remaining in the first half, a torrid spell for the Bavarians was capped off with the premature exit of Franck Ribéry. Just as he was returning to some sort of form, the 35-year-old winger slowly made his way back to the dugout.

There was a silver lining, however. Perhaps earlier than he had expected, Ribéry’s countryman Coman made his way out onto the pitch after more than three months on the sidelines. There was one more decent opportunity before half-time for the of-colour Lewandowski, who sent the ball into the crowd.

After the break, there was a clear sense of purpose about Bayern’s approach. There were two chances in the space of as many minutes for Müller and Süle, and after 50 minutes Müller’s cross was finished by Gnabry. It was the perfect blind poacher’s finish. Bremen defender Niklas Moisander had made the initial contact as he flew in to challenge, and Gnabry was in the right place at the right time to nudge the ball past Pavlenka.

It was just the sort of break the Bavarians needed.

Bayern hold firm

Former Bayern legend Claudio Pizarro came off the bench and almost created a second equaliser, but Kruse’s shot rolled just wide. It was the last sniff of goal for the home side, as the visitors shored things up well at the back. After the recent last-minute meltdowns, the final whistle was a welcome relief.

If just to seal the disappointment for the home side, Moisander was shown a second yellow card deep into injury time. Arguably, it should have come earlier. Werder’s overly physical tactics were questionable at best, as was referee Dingert’s willingness to turn a blind eye.

The Bavarians are still nine points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund, but it finally looks as though the corner has been turned.

There are still defensive worries, but there was plenty to take from this game. Apart from the spell following the opening goal, Bayern had dominated the game. They had been comfortable, and could have scored more.

Serge Gnabry, operating behind Robert Lewandowski rather than as a supplier on the wing, looked sharp throughout – making up for the Pole who had yet another ordinary afternoon. Joshua Kimmich was excellent, and master dribbler Kingsley Coman also looked decent after what was an unexpectedly early start.

Then, there was that little bit of luck. The thing that no money can by, and no coach can create.

Statistical Summary

SV Werder Bremen – FC Bayern München 1:2 (1:1)
Osako 33. / Gnabry 20., 50.

Bremen: Pavlenka – Gebre Selassie, Veljković (63. Langkamp), Moisander, Augustinsson – Şahin (76. Pizarro) – M. Eggestein, Klaassen – J. Eggestein (66. Möhwald), Osako – Kruse (c)

FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Süle, Boateng, Alaba – Goretzka, Kimmich – Gnabry (80. Thiago), Ribéry (38. Coman) – Müller (90.+1. Martínez) – Lewandowski

Referee: Christian Dingert (Gries)
Attendance: 42,100

Yellow Cards: Moisander 36., 90.+3., Şahin 69. / Alaba 79., Thiago 82.
Red Cards: Moisander 90.+3.- / –

Shots: 8 / 18
Passes: 458 / 585
Completed Passes: 360 / 496
Pass Success: 79% / 85%
Possession: 44% / 56%
Fouls: 14 / 9
Offsides: 2 / 1
Corners: 3 / 10