Following the international break, Bayern Munich resumed action in the Bundesliga with a trip to Mainz on Saturday. It has not been a happy hunting ground for Die Roten as they had suffered defeats on their last three visits to Mainz. However, Bayern were favourites for this game due to their good form in the Bundesliga. Both sides were having problems with injuries to key players in the squad.
Thomas Tuchel made three changes to the team that played against Freiburg before the international break. With Noussair Mazraoui picking up a minor injury during the international break, Konrad Laimer returned to the starting lineup in the right-back position. Matthijs de Ligt was declared fit enough to partner Kim Min-jae in the heart of the defense in the absence of injured Dayot Upcamecano. Thomas Muller took a seat on the bench as Jamal Musiala returned to the starting XI in the number ten role.
Despite question marks surrounding the fitness of both Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, the midfield duo started against Mainz. Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman were deployed as orthodox wingers for the second game in a row with Harry Kane as the lone striker.
The host team meanwhile lined up in a 3-4-2-1 formation. Following are the key tactical takeaways and observations from Die Roten’s 3-1 victory over Mainz.
Fast start and good tempo, but poor execution in defense
Mainz were under pressure from the word go as Bayern’s central midfield duo took control of the game and dictated the tempo of the game. In the seventh minute, Kimmich stung the palms of Robin Zentner with a powerful drive from outside the box. Two minutes later Kimmich picked out Goretzka in the centre of the box but his header was just a bit too high though he did well to make contact.
Despite dictating the tempo, Bayern displayed poor execution in playing out from the back. In the 11th minute, a giveaway at the back resulted in a shot from Danny da Costa.
After the initial scare from Mainz, Sane led a brilliant counter-attack down the middle and set up Kingsley Coman to score with a rocket of a shot low and hard to the keeper’s right.
In the 14th minute, more loose play at the back resulted in a free header for Mainz’s Lee Jae-Sung. It was only thanks to Sven Ulreich’s quick reflexes and strong hand that the hosts didn’t equalise. The German goalkeeper pushed the ball onto the post and then gathered it. It was a terrific save from Ulreich to deny Mainz a certain goal.
Bayern’s midfield and attack remained in the ascendency throughout the half with Leon Goretzka joining the attack at every opportunity. The German midfielder headed a cross back towards the center of the six-yard box for Harry Kane to nod in to make it 2-0 in the 16th minute. The visitors continued to move the ball forward with pace in attack and created a few more chances before the break.
The question marks over Die Roten’s defense continue as they ended the half on a poor note. Indecisive defending from the visitors allowed 19-year-old Brajan Gruda to cut in from the right flank and set up a wide-open Anthony Caci on the left side of the penalty box. With time and space, Caci controlled the ball and then unleashed an unstoppable left-footed shot past Ulreich to provide Mainz a route back in the game.
The half ended with Die Roten clearly being the better team but they still have the tendency to have lapses in concentration at the back, which eventually cost them a clean sheet against Mainz.
Second half was an even affair
With Bayern having been prone to mistakes at the back during the first half, Mainz came out all guns blazing in the second half to get the equaliser.
Both teams had attempts towards goal before Leon Goretzka made it 3-1 for Bayern from the edge of the box with a well-struck shot to the bottom corner of the goalkeeper’s right in the 59th. minute.
Brajan Gruda had been a thorn in Bayern’s side throughout the match. He hit the post for the home side in the 89th minute. In injury time, Leandro Barreiro shot just wide from the center of the box as Bayern hung on. Die Roten didn’t have control of the second half. It was an end-to-end game, which was won by the visitors courtesy of Goretzka’s goal.
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Bayern were dominant in midfield and menacing in attack against Mainz. The attack was supplemented well by Davies on the left and Goretzka through the middle. However, untimely lapses in defense invited the home team back into the game.
Laimer and de Ligt seemed out of sync at times on the right side of defense. Whether that was a case of unfamiliarity with each other at the back or De Ligt being asked to do too much too soon in the absence of Upamecano is up for debate. What is certain though, is that, come the next game a better job has to be done in deciding when to play out from the back and when to play it safe. Once again Kim Min-jae was the best defender for Bayern.