The Bundesliga returned after the international break, and FC Bayern München were up against perennnial battlers SC Freiburg. Despite dominating the possession and creating a stack of chances, a below-par Die Roten were unable to stretch over the line against a brave and well-drilled opponent.
Coupled with Borussia Dortmund’s annoyingly late victory over Wolfsburg, the two dropped points sees Niko Kovač’s side fall back into second spot behind their Westphalian rivals. With the two leaders facing off at the Allianz Arena next week, it is all up for grabs now.
Three changes, Freiburg strike early
The Bayern coach made three changes to the team that had hammered FSV Mainz 05 6:0 a fortnight earlier. Skipper Manuel Neuer was unable to shake off a calf problem and was replaced by Sven Ulreich, and Rafinha came in for the injured David Alaba.
The third swap was the customary back-four mini rotation, which saw Jérôme Boateng return in place of the benched Niklas Süle. In Neuer’s absence, Thomas Müller was given the captain’s armband.
Bayern were slow to get going, and the home side took full toll. With the minty but not so fresh Bavarians still wiping the sleep from their eyes, Christian Streich’s men opened the scoring after just three minutes.
Left-back Christian Günter was given far too much time and space out wide, and sent a teasing cross into the box. Sneaking into a gaping void between a static Boateng and Mats Hummels, Lucas Höler headed home from seven yards with terrifying ease. Ulreich could only watch.
One could say that Lucas had found a massive Höler in the Bayern defence.
Not the start we'd hoped for, but plenty of time to turn it around ?
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) March 30, 2019
Freiburg have punched well above their weight this season, maximising their potential in big games with a well-structured and brave approach. Streich’s side could easily have doubled their lead after eighteen minutes. Skipper Mike Frantz beat Ulreich with a well struck shot, only to see the ball hacked off the line by Boateng.
Lewy levels, Bayern up the ante
The Bavarians had been a distant second best for the opening twenty minutes, but drew level with a piece of individual brilliance from Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker has had some patchy spells this season, but his finish after 22 minutes was right out of the top drawer.
When Lewandowski collected the ball from Leon Goretzka, he still had plenty of work to do to notch up his 199th Bundesliga goal. His close control was flawless, and the lethal left-footed finish was spectacularly impetuous. Freiburg ‘keeper Alexander Schwolow could only dive in vain as the ball fizzed past him and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) March 30, 2019
It was the perfect shot in the arm for Kovač’s men, who upped the ante. With Bayern looking for a second goal and Freiburg always looking dangerous on the break, there were opportunities for both sides. Hummels headed narrowly wide and Goretzka skimmed the outside of the post for Bayern, while at the other end Günter, Höler and Janik Haberer had opportunities for Die Breisgauer.
Sluggish second half
After what had been a pretty exciting opening 45 minutes, the second half was a disappointment for the visiting fans. Half expecting to stroll to victory, Bayern were almost sleepwalking at times as they bossed the possession but failed to turn it into anything more.
Joshua Kimmich and Lewandowski both had chances, and at the other end Vincenzo Grifo and the dangerous Haberer showed that Freiburg were not scared of going for all three points themselves. As the game went on however, Bayern started to turn the screw.
The chances started to come for Die Roten, but Schwolow was having none of it. In the space of a dozen minutes, Freiburg’s last line of defence produced an array of impressive saves. A deflected long-range Boateng thunderbolt was beaten away by the ‘keeper, who then flew to his right to keep out James Rodríguez’s looping effort. Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry and Lewandowski were similarly denied.
Late Lewy chance goes begging
As the clock ticked into the final ten minutes, it was all out attack from Bayern and all hands to the pump for Freiburg. Streich’s men were now playing for the point, clinging on in the hope of matching their earlier achievement in Munich.
Right at the death, the chance arrived for the visitors. Having scored such a spectacular goal for the equaliser, it was hard to believe that Lewandowski could miss what was in anybody’s book an absolute sitter. James’ cross into the box was sweetly timed and Lewy was able to get away from his marker. Just three yards out, he had the entire goal at his mercy.
Oh Lewy ?
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) March 30, 2019
Both sets of fans expected to see the net bulge, but the finalé was as gruesome as it was unexpected. A completely mistimed header, with the ball screwing well wide of the target. If just to make matters worse, Lewy was unable to reach the rebound after a Goretzka shot clattered off the upright three minutes into injury time. As if one needed any further proof that it was not going to be Bayern’s day.
The perfect setup
If Bayern had been unlucky not to take all three points, just the opposite was happening in Dortmund. As the end of the ninety minutes passed at the Signal Iduna Park, title rivals Borussia were being blanked by VfL Wolfsburg. At that moment in time, the two dropped points in Freiburg was not such a big deal. A simple case of as you were.
Cue a stunning free-kick from Spanish striker Paco Alcácer to give the Westphalians the lead, followed by a second deep in injury time just to rub it in.
With Dortmund back on top and two points in front, the pressure is right back on Bayern ahead of next week’s head to head between the top two. The one they like to call Der Klassiker. If the Bavarians can take all three points, we will surely see a battle right to the end. Lose, and they will have to climb the mountain again.
So, who said that the Bundesliga was boring?
Before all of this drama, of course, there is the little matter of the DFB-Pokal quarter-final against second division 1. FC Heidenheim.
SC Freiburg – FC Bayern München 1:1 (1:1)
Höler 3. / Lewandowski 22.
Freiburg: Schwolow – Stenzel, Schlotterbeck, Heintz, Günter – Abrashi, Höfler – Frantz (c) (70. Waldschmidt), Grifo (90. Gondorf) – Haberer – Höler (79. Gulde)
FC Bayern: Ulreich – Kimmich, Boateng (73. Süle), Hummels, Rafinha – Thiago – James, Goretzka – Müller (c) (55. Gnabry), Coman (73. Ribéry) – Lewandowski
Referee: Christian Dingert (Gries)
Yellow Cards: Günter 26., Abrashi 43., Heintz 63. / Hummels 5.
Red Cards: – / –
Shots: 12 / 27
Passes: 282 / 680
Completed Passes: 217 / 613
Pass Success: 77% / 90%
Possession: 29% / 71%
Fouls: 9 / 10
Offsides: 1 / 1
Corners: 1 / 7