Football Features

Leroy Sane runs the show as Bayern ruthlessly punish Lazio’s “Europa League” defending

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:34, 23 February 2021

Bayern Munich all-but guaranteed their spot in the quarter-finals of the 2020/21 Champions League with a commanding 4-1 win over Lazio in their last-16 first leg in Rome.

Leading up to the game some questions were being raised about the quality dropping at Bayern Munich in recent weeks and whether it would continue here. Having lost just one of their 48 games across all competitions in 2020, Bayern had fallen to three in their opening 12 this year including one against Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend.

But this is the Champions League. For the past 18 months this has been Bayern’s competition and it will continue to be.

It was a strange win for Bayern as they didn’t actually look too comfortable, allowing Lazio time on the ball, but they restricted opposition chances in the first half while having of their own. And it was Bayern’s ruthlessness that proved killer for any Roman dreams of an upset.

Lazio architects of their own downfall

Bayern Munich took the lead inside 10 minutes thanks to Lewandowski, with the Polish striker scoring his 72nd goal in the Champions League, third only to Lionel Messi (118) and Cristiano Ronaldo (134) in the competition’s all-time top scorer list. But Bayern had nothing to do with the build up, with a Lazio defender claiming the assist.

Although Bayern’s press had forced him back towards his own goal, January signing Mateo Musacchio still had very little pressure on him, but his attempted pass to goalkeeper Pepe Reina was a shocker. Instead of passing it into space for Reina to move into, away from his own goal, Musacchio sent the ball across the box where Lewandowski was waiting.

The Polish striker still needed the composure to round Reina and finish after intercepting but it’s Lewandowski. If ever there was a striker you didn’t want to hand that chance on a silver platter, it’s him.

That goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Lazio, even so early on, and they would go on to help Bayern in scoring at two of their remaining three goals. No fingers really can be pointed at Lazio for Jamal Musiala’s goal, his first in the Champions League, becoming both Bayern and England’s youngest ever scorer in the competition, though Simone Inzaghi may have wanted his defenders to close the youngster down sooner.

A moment on Musiala and his Englishness, who is one of Europe’s brightest teenagers and at the heart of a very interesting battle between England and Germany. The midfielder (who turns 18 on Friday) was born in Stuttgart but raised in Croydon, and joined Chelsea’s academy at a young age before being allowed to leave for Bayern Munich in 2019. He has already represented England at youth level, but is eligible for Germany, and it is feared he will join Die Mannschaft if not capped by the Three Lions soon. The closest opportunity to do so is next month with England in World Cup qualifying action, and former striker Peter Crouch believes Gareth Southgate should get him capped.

“This kid, he’s 17,” he said on BT Sport.

“We don’t want him to go and play for Germany. I don’t know what his decisions are, his process, where his mind is at the moment. He’s playing in Germany and he’ll have a lot of German people in his ear telling him what to do, but why don’t you cap him?

“Get him in, get him capped and see how his career goes.”

But back to Lazio and, oh dear, Bayern’s third goal…

It came from a Lazio attack, cleared by Bayern with only Lewandowski left to battle for the ball by the halfway line, surrounded by four defenders. Lazio won the first ball and should have been looking to keep the pressure on Bayern, perhaps to get a goal just before half-time. But Lucas and Patric both challenged for the ball, essentially tackled each other, and allowed Kingsley Coman to race into the Lazio half. Although still some way from the goal, Coman had a free wing to run down and was joined in the attack by his Bayern team-mates, including Leroy Sane who tapped in after the Frenchman’s shot was saved.

At the time of Sane’s touch on the ball, Bayern had four players in the area compared to Lazio’s three outfielders (not including Pepe Reina). When Lazio had four closer to goal at the start of the move, this was a really shameful bit of defending from the home side and not what Inzaghi would have been hoping for when he made the call to replace Musacchio with Senad Lulic after half an hour.

And Lazio weren’t done there. They decided to go one better for Bayern’s fourth goal just after half-time, and score it themselves.

Again it came from their own attack, with Lazio committing essentially their entire team for a corner, so when Bayern cleared Sane received the ball with no one between himself and Reina. The Lazio defence did catch up this time, as Sane was pushed out wide, but he moved past Patric with ease before sending the ball across the box for the arriving Alphonso Davies. But it didn’t reach him, because Francesco Acerbi got his feet mixed up and bundled the ball into the back of the next for 4-0. The improbable task was now impossible. Even though Joaquin Correa pulled one back moments later, this tie is done and Lazio can only blame themselves.

Jermaine Jenas on commentary was pretty brutal but truthful, calling Lazio a Europa League side playing in a Champions League knockout fixture.

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The Sane show

Like Bayern, Sane has been under a lot of criticism in recent weeks (and across the season) as he hasn’t quite hit the high expectations placed on his shoulders following a move from Manchester City last summer. Some goals and assists have been there, but Bayern have felt the performances were below the £45m price they paid for him and the drawn-out transfer saga.

But with the likes of Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry out, and Bayern only naming six of a possible 12 substitutes, Sane stepped up to make this game so comfortable.

The German was very busy inside the Lazio half, constantly looking for ways to break through their back three and completed more take-ons than any other player on the pitch, also with a 100% success rate (5/5). He created more chances than any other Bayern player (two), had the joint-most shots (three, alongside Lewandowski) and put in two crosses (bettered only by Kimmich).

But the standout contributions came in the goals. Sane was quickest to react following Coman’s saved shot, tapping in for Bayern’s third and though he will not be credited with an assist for the own goal it was all down to him. Could this be the performance he uses to kickstart his Bayern career?