Lazy, lucky FC Bayern escape with a point at feisty Nürnberg

With Borussia Dortmund suffering a surprise home defeat against local rivals Schalke 04, it was all set up for FC Bayern München to open up a four-point gap at the top of the table. Up against basement-dwellers 1. FC Nürnberg it was surely a case of three easy points in the bag. Or not.

In what was a strange game where Bayern failed to show up for long spells, they were taken all the way by the feisty Franconians. Niko Kovač’s men fought back after falling behind in the second half, but were lucky to escape with a point after the home side missed a penalty right at the death.

A sluggish start

Bayern coach Niko Kovač made two changes to the team that had started in the DFB-Pokal semi-final against Werder Bremen. Having sustained a knock in the cup match, Jérôme Boateng was replaced by the again available Niklas Süle, while Serge Gnabry returned to the bench for Leon Goretzka. Also on the bench was Arjen Robben, back in the match day squad after his long injury layoff.

The scene was perfectly set for Bayern to steal a march on title rivals Dortmund. The day before, BVB had stumbled badly in a heated Revierderby, where they were reduced to nine men as struggling Schalke stormed to a shock 4:2 win at the Signal Iduna Park. All that separated the Bavarians from establishing a four-point cushion were struggling Nürnberg.

The men from Munich were red-hot favourites, but the Franconian side had other ideas. They had held Dortmund to a goalless draw earlier in the season, and it was clear that they were looking to repeat the trick against their Bavarian rivals.

Der Club were disciplined at the back, and Bayern would have to wait until the 23rd minute for their first decent shot on goal. A David Alaba free-kick was turned onto the crossbar by Nürnberg ‘keeper Christian Mathenia, and two minutes later Thomas Müller had a shy from the edge of the box, only to find the side netting.

Sticky situation

There was little threat from the home side – until the 38th minute, when Boris Schommers’ men were almost gifted the opening goal. Bayern ‘keeper Sven Ulreich was unable to deal with a dodgy Mats Hummels back-pass, but Brazilian winger Mateus Pereira was unable to capitalise.

The half change seemed to energise the home side, who upper the ante. Ulreich managed to bail himself out of another sticky situation just moments later as he denied a rampaging Eduard Löwen, and Swede Mikael Ishak was also able to have a crack at the Bayern goal before half-time.

At the other end, Bayern were unable to assert themselves. There was an optimistic shout for a penalty when Joshua Kimmich went over in the box, but the performance was best summed up just moments before the whistle. With the goal at his mercy, the usually clinical Robert Lewandowski blazed a ugly-looking shot high over the bar and into the crowd.

Nürnberg take the lead

Changes were desperately needed, and the Bayern coach swapped out the off-colour Müller for Serge Gnabry at the start of the second half. However, it was the home side that continued to look the more threatening. Just three minutes after the restart, Der Club took a shock lead.

Having burned past an absent-minded Kimmich, Sebastian Kerk created an opening for the busy Löwen, whose shot was parried by Ulreich. The ball then fell to Pereira, who made no mistake. The home crowd burst into life.

Bayern were suddenly reeling. Three minutes later, Schommers’ men should have doubled their lead. Hummels was again caught dawdling, and there was a three on one situation as the play swept towards the visitors’ goal. Were it not for one poor pass and a fantastic last-gasp tackle from Süle, Bayern would have been staring right down the barrel.

Joker Gnabry levels things up

Kovač continued to adjust his tactics, shipping out Javi Martínez for the livelier James Rodríguez, but the Nürnberg defence maintained their discipline. Even the James change backfired, as the Colombian himself was forced to make way for teenager Alphonso Davies after suffering a calf injury. Just moments earlier, he had rattled the Nürnberg crossbar with a sumptuous free-kick.

Just as it looked like it was going to be one of those off days, the visitors finally had a little fortune. FCN full-back Robert Bauer was unable to deal with an awkward Kingsley Coman cross, and as he looked to clear past Gnabry, the ball bounced off the winger’s left leg and over the stranded Mathenia.

The sense of relief and desperation was summed up by Gnabry’s reaction. No usual soup-stirring celebration, but a face that bristled with intent. Bayern would have fifteen minutes to step up, finish the job, and take the three points.

Late, late drama

Bayern’s equaliser should have been the perfect springboard for a final onslaught, but if anything it seemed to embolden their opponents. The Nürnberg coach made some attacking changes off the bench, and his team responded. One could only wonder how they were struggling at the wrong end of the table.

As the clock ticked into additional time, the ball was in the Bayern half. Davies challenged sub Georg Margreitter in the box, and referee Tobias Stieler pointed to the penalty spot. The decision was harsh. There was nothing really to the challenge, but Davies’ arm had touched the Austrian’s face. There was a VAR review. The decision stood.

Left-back Tim Leibold stepped up to take the kick. Based on the performance, many Bayern fans expected the ball to hit the back of the net. It even fair to say that Nürnberg deserved to win. But fate was on the visitors’ side. Leibold’s kick was well-struck, but smacked against the inside of the left post and out.

If just to cap off the late, late drama, Coman was sent clean through on goal. With what was the last kick of the game, the Frenchman seemed to panic with just Mathenia to beat, scuffing a poor effort straight at the ‘keeper.

So there was no Dusel. No late win. Indeed, two points thrown away. Bayern had actually increased their lead to two points over Dortmund, but it felt like a defeat.

Statistical Summary

1. FC Nürnberg – FC Bayern München 1:1 (0:0)
Matheus Pereira 48. / Gnabry 75.

Nürnberg: Mathenia – Bauer (88. Iličević), Mühl, Ewerton, Leibold – Behrens (c), Erras – Matheus Pereira, Kerk – Löwen (82. Margreitter) – Ishak (72. Tillman)

FC Bayern: Ulreich – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels, Alaba – Martínez (56. James Rodríguez, 72. Davies) – Goretzka, Thiago – Müller (c) (46. Gnabry), Coman – Lewandowski

Referee: Tobias Stieler (Hamburg)
Attendance: 50,000

Yellow Cards: Ewerton 68. / Davies 90.
Red Cards: – / –

Shots: 10 / 17
Passes: 311 / 613
Completed Passes: 214 / 537
Pass Success: 69% / 88%
Possession: 33% / 67%
Fouls: 12 / 10
Offsides: 1 / 0
Corners: 5 / 5