Two-goal Gnabry fires FC Bayern to tight cup victory in Berlin

It was a struggle that should never have been, but FC Bayern München are through to the fourth round of the DFB-Pokal. In a tough contest that was only settled in extra time, Niko Kovač’s men edged out a gritty and predictably awkward Hertha BSC.

The Berliners were looking to repeat their two-goal win from earlier in the season, but a Serge Gnabry brace and a Kingsley Coman winner were enough to pull the Bavarians over the line.

Gnabry neutralises early deficit

Days after falling to their first defeat of 2019 against Bayer Leverkusen, the Bayern coach made two changes to his starting eleven. The fit-again Thiago Alcântara came in for Rafinha with Joshua Kimmich switching back to right-back, while Serge Gnabry returned for Thomas Müller. With Manuel Neuer not quite back to full fitness, Sven Ulreich was between the sticks, with youngster Christian Früchtl on the bench.

With less than two minutes on the clock, there was the first moment of drama. Leon Goretzka collected a neat ball from Thiago, and went down in the box following a challenge from Karim Rekik. Bayern should have been awarded a penalty, but referee Markus Schmidt decided to book Goretzka for a dive instead. The decision was to have even more dramatic consequences just moments later.

While the Bayern bench were still complaining about the decision, the home side broke quickly. Salomon Kalou and Max Mittelstadt exchanged passes, before the 21-year-old nutmugged Mats Hummels and beat the unsighted Ulreich.

Rather than dwell on their misfortune, the Bavarians maintained their poise. Within four minutes they were level, Gnabry executing a sharp finish from close range after some excellent approach play from Kimmich and Robert Lewandowski. Unlike the earlier match in Berlin, Die Roten looked to turn the screw.

It may be getting a little old for some, but can anybody get bored of Gnabry’s pot-stirring celebration?

Bayern edge in front

There was only one side playing any football for the remainder of the first half. Gnabry was in top form, justifying his selection with some sharp runs and all-round effervescence. The winger brought the best out of the Hertha’s Norwegian ‘keeper Rune Jarstein with two shots in the space of four minutes, and the biggest surprise was that Bayern were unable to take the lead.

The second half started as the first had ended, with the visitors in firm control. They did not have to wait long for their second goal, and that man Gnabry was there to finish a neat move engineered by Lewandowski and James four minutes after the restart.

The pass was perfect. The shot was cleanly hit. The ball found the bottom-left corner, leaving Jarstein completely helpless.

Bayern could easily have wrapped things up by the hour mark, but Lewandowski unable to get on the end of a well-timed Kimmich pass. In fact, they should have put their opponents well out of sight by then. But this is FC Bayern München, circa 2019. Somehow, we all knew that there was going to be some sort of twist in the tale.

Hertha fight back

Just as it felt like that there was some healthy distance between the two teams, (yet another) unfortunate defensive gaffe gave Pál Dárdai’s side an undeserved foothold.

For most of the contest, Hertha has been outplayed. But when given a sniff of an opportunity, they gobbled it up. A poor header from Hummels gave sub Davie Selke a chance he should never have had, and the youngster made no mistake as he slid the ball past Ulreich from a tight angle.

With a quarter of the game left, the home supporters found their collective voice again.

While the visitors had spurned a hatful of opportunities, Berlin had created just two clear chances – and had taken them both. There were fleeting opportunities for James and David Alaba, but it was almost written that this encounter would go into extra time.

Coman wins it

Bayern had wobbled after Hertha’s equaliser, but were able to dust themselves down for the additional half hour. The Bavarians continued to press, and were rewarded eight minutes in. Goretzka found Lewandowski advancing towards the byline, and the Pole did brilliantly to hook the ball into into the danger area.

There to meet it was Kingsley Coman, who rose majestically above a crowd of blue and white pyjama shirts to head the ball past Jarstein. It was the least Kovač’s side deserved, having launched no fewer than two dozen shots at the Hertha goal.

There was to be no second wind for the home side, who subsided as the game rolled towards its conclusion. A fourth goal would not have flattered the visitors, and there were half-chances for Hummels, James and Lewandowski. The final whistle signalled a tight, but totally deserved victory – and with it a place in the last eight.

Statistical Summary

Hertha BSC – FC Bayern München 2:3 (2:2, 1:1)
Mittelstädt 3., Selke 67. / Gnabry 7., 49., Coman 98.

Berlin: Jarstein – Lazaro, Stark, Rekik, Plattenhardt – Skjelbred (103. Lustenberger), Grujić – Kalou (82. Klünter), Duda (110. Torunarigha), Mittelstädt – Ibišević (c) (64. Selke)

FC Bayern: Ulreich – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels, Alaba – Thiago – Goretzka, James (119. Martínez) – Gnabry (89. Ribéry), Coman (120.+ 1. Müller) – Lewandowski (c)

Referee: Markus Schmidt (Stuttgart)
Attendance: 74,667

Yellow Cards: – / Goretzka 2., Lewandowski 120.
Red Cards: – / –

Shots: 4 / 23
Passes: 360 / 1006
Completed Passes: 247 / 915
Pass Success: 69% / 91%
Possession: 26% / 74%
Fouls: 16 / 14
Offsides: 2 / 1
Corners: 2 / 14