UNION BERLIN VS BAYERN MUNICH: 5 THINGS WE LEARNED
Amidst the Bundesliga adapting to the ‘new normal’, Bayern Munich returned to their old ways by securing the all important three points against a resilient Union Berlin outfit with a 2-0 victory. Despite the new wave of eyes on German football unanimously predicting a Bayern battering, the hosts weren’t as welcoming as first perceived as they fought tooth and nail for every blade of grass and for what they lacked in finesse, they made up for in their workman-like footballing ethos. Disappointingly enough, Neven Subotić, one of Union Berlin’s old-guard didn’t stick to the plan and exhibited a naivety that doesn’t do justice to his wealth of experience after a labored attempt at a challenge tripped Leon Goretzka in the box and Robert Lewandowski did what he was born to do from 12 yards.
As the 2nd half kicked off, the league leaders maintained their one goal lead, despite not being at their vintage best until a Benjamin Pavard header in the 80th minute put the game to bed as well as Urs Fischer’s side’s valiant showing on a sunny Berlin afternoon. Restoring their four-point lead at the top after Borussia Dortmund reigned over Schalke in the Revierderby, Bayern march on.
Here are the 5 things we learned from the contest.
In a world of strikers, Robert Lewandowski is a sensei
Regardless of whichever side of the goalscorers are born versus made debate you stand on, Robert Lewandowski dominates any conversation about No.9’s as he does defences. At this point, referring to Lewandowski as the best striker in the world is less a compliment and more a deserved designation. Despite taking the least touches (12) on the pitch in the first 45, a seemingly quiet Lewa’s stuttering 40th minute penalty was the half’s most noteworthy touch, sealing the contest for Bayern as per usual.
Bagging 40 goals in all competitions for the 5th season in a row, you’d place your odds on the Polish marksman to beat Gerd Müller’s all-time Bundesliga record of 40 goals in the 1971-72 campaign if you were a betting man.
The man scored 5 goals in 9 minutes; the last thing you would want to do is doubt him.
Müller was missed as a No.10
With Hansi Flick opting against Kingsley Coman from the start and not having the injured Philippe Coutinho at his disposal, Thomas Müller operated on the right, with Leon Goretzka occupying the No.10 role. While Bayern’s rustiness may be put down to the enforced break after the COVID-19 crisis and understandably so, not having the Bundesliga’s outstanding creator behind the striker was also symptomatic of their lack of their urgency.
After all, while Müller may not tick all the boxes one expects a silky No. 10 to, the World Cup winner has a footballing brain beyond belief. His ability to find pockets of space, drag defenders out of position and orchestrate play in the final third was sorely missed. While Goretzka won the decisive penalty and came close to getting on the scoresheet himself, Lewandowski and Bayern, as a unit are accustomed to the genius of Thomas Müller and it would be unfair to expect the former to replicate standards that simply can’t be coached.
Union Berlin should be proud of that performance
Work is worship for footballers since they’ve been knee-high and after a layoff from professional sport as long as any, the prospect of facing a Bayern Munich side first up that became the fastest to score 50 goals in 16 games in Bundesliga history isn’t a pleasant one to say the least. Yet, the 12th placed Union Berlin disregarded what was an obvious mismatch on paper and followed Urs Fischer’s watertight gameplan to a tee to make life as unpleasant for their visitors. Lining up in a 3-4-3 system, what stood out the most was the incredible work ethic on show from namesakes and wing-back duo, Christopher Trimmel and Christopher Lenz.
Barely giving the daunting Davies and Gnabry as well as Pavard and Müller a sniff on either side, barring a few exceptions, the pair worked their socks off and put in 90 minutes of sheer applause at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
During the initial spells, Union Berlin posed a challenge in the final third as Bayern’s high line were given headaches by the likes of Anthony Ujah, Grischa Prömel and Marius Bütler.
Despite the Bavarians coming out on top at the end, there are plenty of positives to take from the Eisorne’s structural discipline and adventurous ideation going forward.
Joshua Kimmich was the coolest customer around
Before venturing into defensive midfield, Joshua Kimmich was hands down the best right-back in world football. In his newfound role under Flick’s vision, he has arguably been no lesser of a revelation. In what was an overall uncomfortable afternoon for Bayern, Kimmich looked right at home, pinging passes, and pinching the ball forward with the effortlessness Sergio Busquets would be proud of.
Taking 112 touches, making 10 ball recoveries, and completing 79 of his 89 passes, Kimmich looked in cruise control and to top off what already was a complete display, he bagged an immaculate assist to set up Pavard’s header and Bayern’s two-goal cushion.
So far, Kimmich’s Lahm impression would give Jamie Foxx’s Mike Tyson impression stiff competition.
Becoming champions is only a matter of time for Bayern
Imagine introducing someone to Hansi Flick’s blockbuster Bayern side for the first time against Union Berlin and you’d receive skepticism from someone who hasn’t been witness to the astounding brand of football the Bavarians tend to play on most weekends. Yet, a seasoned observer can gauge the fact that despite the challenge posed by the hosts, there laid an underlying sense of control among the uncertainty exuded by Bayern during the contest. Sure, they weren’t breathtaking and looked out of ideas at times, but not a soul doubted them to get the job done.
Making mistakes is suicide against the defending champions and Urs Fischer’s men perhaps got the harshest reality check when Lewandowski converted from the spot and Pavard doubled their lead in a game where Union Berlin had shut up shop for the most part.
Four points to the good at the top and a habit inevitably kicking in, Bayern’s eight successive Bundesliga crown looks like a formality.