Blundering Bayern see off brave Bremen in thrilling DFB-Pokal semi-final

For the second time in less than a week, FC Bayern München were given a tough and thorough test by one-time goal-magnet Werder Bremen. Having blown a comfortable two-goal lead in as many minutes, a late and controversial Robert Lewandowski penalty settled matters for Niko Kovač’s side.

It was yet another nerve shredding match in what has been a tumultuous campaign, but Bayern are through to their 23rd cup showpiece. In Berlin, they will face first-time finalists RB Leipzig.

A missing hero, even early exchanges

The Bayern coach was forced into making one change, with the recovered Mats Hummels coming back into the defensive four in place of Niklas Süle. The hero just five days earlier against the same opposition, Süle was forced to sit this one out after his red card in the quarter-final against 1. FC Heidenheim.

Bremen had been solid but short of attacking ideas at the Allianz Arena, but adopted a completely different approach in front of their home crowd. The result was an open game with plenty of chances for both teams. Bremen skipper Max Kruse fashioned the first opportunity after eight minutes, and two minutes later Thomas Müller went close for the visitors. Müller had another sniff of a chance after 16 minutes, but his effort was deflected behind by Finnish defender Niklas Moisander.

Then it was Bremen’s turn. Yuya Osako’s long range effort flew wide, and Davy Klaassen went even closer with a well-time shot that flew over the crossbar after some excellent approach work by Milot Rashica. A minute later at the other end, Thiago Alcântara had plenty of time at the edge of the box to line aim and fire, but sent the ball over the target.

Lewy breaks the deadlock

Nine minutes before the break, Kovač’s men broke the deadlock. Jérôme Boateng floated a teasing ball into the box, and Bremen ‘keeper Jiří Pavlenka, outstanding in Munich, was caught in no-man’s land. The Czech could only watch as Müller’s looping ball arced over him and towards the far post.

Getting the better of two Bremen defenders, Serge Gnabry worked the ball back inside. Robert Lewandowski had been anonymous for the opening half hour, but did what quality strikers do. With the goal at his mercy, he tucked the chance away.

The Bavarians upped the ante, Gnabry weaving some magic on the right before being closed down by a mass of green shirts. A minute later, the ball in the back of the net again. Müller’s cross looked to have deceived Pavlenka, with the ball taking the finest of brushes off the top of Lewandowski’s head.

The Pole’s touch was negligible, but he was clearly offside. Had somebody hidden Lewy’s bottle of hair gel in the dressing room, Bayern would have been two up at half-time.

A Müller moment, then two moments of madness

The start of the second half saw Die Roten pick up where they had left off, only for Bremen to produce their best spell of the match up to that point. A Coman effort was well blocked by Pavlenka after 48 minutes, but at the other end Sven Ulreich had his gloves warmed by Kevin Möhwald. Despite the pressure from Florian Kohfeldt’s side, Bayern held firm.

There were more opportunities. A dangerous Joshua Kimmich cross was turned behind by Theodor Gebre Selassie. Müller fired over after another good run from Coman. As the clock ticked past the hour, Bayern were back on top.

After 63 minutes, the visitors doubled their advantage. Sub Leon Goretzka unleashed a long distance effort, and Müller was right on the spot. Der Raumdeuter’s first-time shot was typically awkward, but flew into the top right-hand corner of the net. Pavlenka did get a touch, but it was not enough. Müller, meanwhile, ended up on his backside before celebrating as only he can.

Just as it looked liked we could all relax a little, there was one of those moments. Quickly followed by another. After 74 minutes, Werder were right back in it. Gebre Selassie and Rashica took advantage of some slack defending from the Reds, and Osaka drilled the ball past Sven Ulreich to put the hosts on the board.

Bayern should have been looking to concentrate and consolidate, but were caught with a sucker punch straight from their own kickoff. Kimmich was robbed of the ball, and Rashica left Hummels for dead before slipping the ball past Ulreich. The Bayern ‘keeper could only watch as the Bosnian’s shot pinged off the inside of the post before rippling the net.

Ice-cold Lewy

A thoroughly professional performance had been completely undone in just two minutes. Bayern were rocking, and their opponents went in for the kill. The home fans ramped up the volume, sensing something special. Four months ago, the Bavarians might have buckled completely. Not this time.

With eleven minutes reamining, Coman made another run into the Bremen penalty area with Gebre Selassie in hot pursuit. A gentle shove in the back. A fall. Referee Daniel Siebert pointing to the penalty spot. The decision was, arguably, a little soft. But Gebre Selassie was chasing the man and not the ball. There was a touch. Gentle it may have been, but a touch all the same. Herr Siebert consulted the video assistant, and there was no apparent contradiction. The decision stood.

The Bremen players and bench were apoplectic, and it all started to heat up on the pitch. Bremen had been something of a goal-magnet for Bayern in recent seasons, but this felt like the late 1980s again. When everybody around him were losing their heads, Robert Lewandowski remained composed. He was the epitome of calm, sending Pavlenka the wrong way and rolling the ball into the bottom right hand corner.

Nerve-shredding finale

Bayern were back in front, but Bremen were far from finished. Kohfeldt’s side threw everything and the kitchen sink forward in search of the goal that would take the game into extra time. The tension, fulled by the penalty decision, was also boiling over.

Kruse and Bayern substitute James Rodríguez were both booked, with the Bremen skipper resembling Mr. Creosote. James fired over. Osako created some menacing moments before Bayern eventually cleared the danger. Then, at the other other end, Lewandowski lashed the ball against the post after rounding the stricken Pavlenka.

As tensions continued to rise, Javi Martínez went to ground, looking to buy a few crucial seconds. It made for comical scenes on the sidelines, with Kovač having to restrain a manic-looking Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt. The Weserstadion was a seething pressure cooker, ready to explode.

Deep into additional time, Bremen sub Martin Harnik had a shot blocked. A spectacular effort from Kruse was gathered by Ulreich. Finally, the whistle blew.

Bayern are through to their 23rd cup final, where they will play an in-form RB Leipzig in Berlin. But there is no time to rest for the players. The battle for the Bundesliga resumes at the weekend, with a short trip to struggling 1. FC Nürnberg.

Statistical Summary

Werder Bremen – FC Bayern München 2:3 (0:1)
Osako 74., Rashica 75. / Lewandowski 36., pen 80., Müller 63.

Bremen: Pavlenka – Gebre Selassie, Veljković, Moisander, Augustinsson (81. Harnik) – M. Eggestein – Möhwald (65. Pizarro), Klaassen (89. J. Eggestein) – Kruse (c) – Osako, Rashica

FC Bayern: Ulreich – Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Alaba – Martínez, Thiago (76. James Rodríguez) – Gnabry (57. Goretzka), Müller (c) (89. Rafinha), Coman – Lewandowski

Referee: Daniel Siebert (Berlin)
Attendance: 42,100

Yellow Cards: Klaassen 25., Kruse 84. / James 84., Lewandowski 90.+3.
Red Cards: – / –

Shots: 15 / 18
Passes: 448 / 494
Completed Passes: 351 / 421
Pass Success: 78% / 85%
Possession: 48% / 52%
Fouls: 13 / 9
Offsides: 1 / 3
Corners: 2 / 2