Bayern Munich hosted FC Copenhagen on Wednesday in the penultimate group game of the Champions League. In the reverse fixture in Denmark, Copenhagen had contained Bayern for most of the match. It took some late heroics from Thomas Muller to set up the winning goal for Mathys Tel as Die Roten clinched a narrow 2-1 victory. The Danish side once again mounted a great challenge against Bayern as they managed to get a point from the game at Allianz Arena.
As expected, Bayern lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. However, it was a bit surprising to see the visitors also line up in a 4-3-2-1 formation considering how well the 4-3-3 formation had worked for them in the reverse-fixture. Let us now take a look at the key tactical events and takeaways from the goalless encounter.
Player rotation with thin bench
After having not made any substitutions during last Friday’s 1-0 win over Koln coach Thomas Tuchel made four changes to the starting XI to take on Copenhagen.
Kim min-jae finally got a rest. The South Korean defender along with Noussair Mazraoui and Eric Choupo-Moting were all omitted from the match-day squad due to injury. Replacing the aforementioned trio were Raphael Guerreiro, Alphonso Davies, and Thomas Muller. Guerreiro slotted in midfield alongside Joshua Kimmich, whilst Leon Goretzka played in central defense. Alphonso Davies and Muller played in their usual positions. Mathys Tel replaced Leroy Sane in the attack.
Copenhagen once again had the formula to contain Bayern
For inevitable reasons, Tuchel wasn’t able to start Bayern’s strongest XI even if he wanted to. Despite several changes in the starting XI, Die Roten had a formidable attacking quartet of Harry Kane, Muller, Tel, and Kingsley Coman. The hosts were firm favourites to clinch a victory on Wednesday.
The visitors came up with an even better performance to stop Die Roten's explosive attacks. Bayern registered just two shots on target for the entire game despite having 62% possession. Die Roten came up against a stubborn defense that gave them next to no space to create chances on a consistent basis. (Stats courtesy: Sofascore)
The Referee owes Bayern and in particular Sven Ulreich an apology
During the second half, Leroy Sane's free-kick was tipped over the bar by Copenhagen’s Kamil Grabara. The touch was missed by all of the match officials despite claims for a corner from numerous Bayern players. Substitute goalkeeper Sven Ulreich voiced his opinion from the bench and received a yellow card for his troubles. Ulreich's opinion was backed up by the replays that showed a clear deflection on the ball after Garbara tipped it over the bar.
The on-field referee awarded Bayern a penalty for handball in the box late in the game, but the penalty shout was subsequently overturned after a VAR review. The Bavarian faithful could be forgiven for thinking that the final decision was a result of the backlash from the penalty decision, made a day earlier in the game between PSG and Newcastle United. Bayern will feel hard done by since similar penalties have been given in European competitions over the last few seasons.
The passage of play that led to the penalty shout summed up the night for Bayern as they looked inefficient and timid in the final third. Thomas Muller was shoved in the opposition’s box a few moments later whilst trying to position himself to get on the end of a cross; similarly, to the appeal for a corner, this infringement was also not spotted. Bayern were at the receiving end when it came to poor decisions from the referee.
Despite dropping points on Wednesday, Bayern's top spot in the points table is confirmed. Tuchel made the right decision to rotate the squad and not risk further injury to key players. With games coming thick and fast, the German coach needs to use the entire squad.
The group-stage record for consecutive wins came to an end at 17, but the draw also meant that Die Roten’s unbeaten group-stage record was extended to 39 games.