In a tense night of football, Bayern Munich beat Olympiakos 2-0 at the Allianz Arena.
The Bavarians were playing their first game after sacking Niko Kovac and were desperate to pick up a win, and did in the end grind one out. Who were the winners and losers?
Winner: Robert Lewandowski
It has to be hard being Robert Lewandowski. One of the most consistent goalscorers in modern football history, a relentless striker who only failed to hit double figures once in his professional career (his first season with Borussia Dortmund, when he scored 9) and scored 40 or more goals in his last four seasons and already has 20 so far this, and yet is always overlooked in favour of more expressive South Americans or young English media darlings.
Well, tonight he showed his worth. Bayern were pretty bad all game long against the Greek side, not really hurting Olympiakos in any serious way despite their obvious dominance. But as the endgame was approaching and Bayern were starting to get anxious over whether or not they’d actually score, guess who showed up to deftly redirect Kingsley Coman’s rapid cross into the back of the net. 21 for the season, 60 all-time in the Champions League and a big win secured for Bayern. Lewandowski runs like clockwork.
It has to be hard being Coutinho. No matter how many forward steps he seems to make, things are immediately followed by a backstep. He becomes Liverpool’s best player and earns a move to Barcelona only to fail to set Catalunya alight as Liverpool make consecutive Champions League finals, winning one and becoming one of the world’s best sides.
And after his failure at Barcelona, where would he go? Bayern Munich rescued him with loan deal, and sure enough he began his Bayern career looking sharp. Robert Lewandowski was among his chief cheerleaders, things were good. Well, they were good for him. Bayern were inconsistent and manager Niko Kovac was eventually sacked.
And here, in the first game of the post-Kovac era, Coutinho found himself sat on the bench watching Bayern. And despite his side’s troubles breaking Olympiakos down, and then their time-killing subs once they did take the lead, at no point did Hans Dieter Flick seem to consider bringing Coutinho on. One step forward, two steps back. A familiar song for post-Liverpool Philippe Coutinho.
Winner: Joshua Kimmich
When Kimmich was re-converted to centre midfield by Joachim Low, it appeared to be a change that would only hold in the national side. For Bayern it seemed like Kimmich would continue as a right-back, but tonight proved that his switch to midfield is going to endure at club level too.
Not only was Kimmich given the nod over both Thiago and Corentin Tolisso, but he played with a supreme assurance at the heart of the Bayern side. There wasn’t too much positive about Bayern’s performance against Olympiakos, but Joshua Kimmich was one of them. 137 touches, 111 passes and two chances created.
Joshua Kimmich is the future of Bayern Munich’s midfield.
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Winner: Pep Guardiola
One of the big changes Guardiola made at Bayern, when they wouldn’t sign him a new centre-back, was convert Javi Martinez and David Alaba to centre-backs. Doing so took the Basque and Austrian to whole new levels, becoming even better than they ever had been. Alaba in particular went straight to the stratosphere, only to fall back down to earth since Pep left.
But here we are in late 2019, three years after Pep left, and Bayern Munich put Javi Martinez and David Alaba out as centre-backs. Now of course this was as a result of injuries to Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez, but the fact that Hans Dieter Flick could turn to the Pep Guardiola playbook and that it worked so seamlessly after all these years is testament to the good work that the Catalan did in Bavaria.
It sounds odd, but Spurs must have been watching this in Belgrade and been really pleased. Coming into matchday four, Bayern topped Group B with 9 points and Spurs were second with 4. There was already no real hope of finishing first, but Spurs’ qualification efforts were given a huge boost by Bayern’s win here.
The win moves the Bavarians onto 12 points (seeing them qualify) but importantly keeps Olympiakos on just one. Essentially giving Mauricio Pochettino’s men a little margin for error in their quest to return to the knockout stages, especially as the final group game in Bavaria against Bayern is likely to be a dead-rubber.
Loser: Hans Dieter Flick
With the lack of top quality managerial options available, and with their Jupp Heynckes card off the table, there was always a chance that Bayern Munich would stick with Hans Dieter Flick for the rest of the season before properly courting their next boss in the summer.
This game will have surely poured cold water on those plans. Bayern were abysmal against Olympiakos, making hard work of what should have been easy opponents. They won because of the overwhelming difference in quality between the two sides, and there was a seriously lack of spark on display. Flick picked a workmanlike midfield and they produced a workmanlike performance, but as we all know, workmanlike is not good enough for Bayern Munich.