Football Features

Davies the world’s best left-back? Bayern Munich re-establish Bundesliga dominance with 2-0 win v Union Berlin

By Chris Smith

Published: 19:12, 17 May 2020

Any hopes of Bayern Munich being caught cold on their return to action were ended as they dispatched Union Berlin 2-0 away from home on Sunday. 

Borussia Dortmund thrashed rivals Schalke 4-0 in the Revierderby on Saturday to move within a point of the Bavarians, while Borussia Monchengladbach also kept the pressure on with a 3-1 win away at Eintracht Frankfurt.

However, a Robert Lewandowski penalty shortly before half-time and a header from Benjamin Pavard in the final 10 minutes were enough to restore Bayern’s four-point advantage at the top of the Bundesliga.

Here is how Bayern got the job done.

Alphonso Davies rises to the pressure

It’s been a while since Bayern Munich, or any side for that matter, have taken to the field. That time has given the world a chance to look back over Alphonso Davies’ already extensive highlights reel and already talk him up as one of the best left-backs on the planet.

That’s a lot of pressure to hold upon 19-year-old shoulders, especially ones which had just 27 games of Bundesliga experience ahead of Sunday’s match. However, Davies did anything but wilt. In fact, he seemed to revel under the microscope.

During the first half, the Canadian was his typically marauding self, notching up the highest number of sprints (20) of any Bayern player and clocking a top speed of 33.83km/h — the fastest of any player on the pitch. In the second half, incredibly, he increased that speed to 34.98km/h and ended the match with 36 sprints. Even Usain Bolt would have struggled to keep up with him here.

However, it wasn’t just raw speed Davies relied upon to make his presence felt. Attacking and defensively, the young Canadian was superb.

Going forward, Davies was a menace, constantly using his speed to get in behind the Union defence, while he consistently drew the likes of Christopher Trimmel and Florian Hubner into one-on-one situations down the left. Davies ended the match with four dribbles attempted, two dribbles completed and made a total of three key passes — no player provided more. On another day, he might well have added to his four Bundesliga assists — especially with his chance laid on to Serge Gnabry in the 79th minute.

Sure, at times, Union tried to exploit his aggressively high positioning with some lofted balls into the space behind Davies. However, we are all well aware of the former Vancouver Whitecaps man’s powers of recovery. Davies made a total of five ball recoveries throughout the 90 minutes, while he was also able to make two interceptions and gain possession for his time five times. His sprint to shut out a Union attack in the 87th minute was a brilliant illustration of both his speed and seemingly endless fitness reserves.

Alphonso Davies’ heat map vs Union Berlin

Sure, there are still areas of Davies’ game which need refinement — the ability to make the right pass at the end of his dribbles instead of going alone being one of them. However, that’s to be expected from a teenager and if he carries on in this manner, there will be absolutely no disputing his status as the best left-back on the planet.

Not bad for a converted winger!

Lewandowski keeps on scoring

One thing to come out of the extended break in football is the chance for Lewandowski to work even harder on his physical appearance.

The Poland international has been in ridiculous form this season but returned to the field on Sunday looking more than just trim. No, he looked ripped and absolutely raring to go.

Lewandowski dispatched his 40th-minute penalty expertly to extend his record to 26 Bundesliga goals for the season, while this is the fifth season in a row in which he’s bagged 40 or more goals for Bayern.

But more than that, he shrugged off Union defenders with ease throughout, whether by physically battling them, taking them on in the air or using clever flicks to disguise the ball.

Lewandowksi appears to be even better now, and that is truly terrifying.

Union miss out on their big day

Under normal circumstances, an away trip to Union Berlin would have been one of the last games Bayern would have picked to extend their lead, with Die Eisernen supporters famously generating a wonderful atmosphere at Stadion An der Alten Försterei.

However, thanks to the Bundesliga return having to be played behind closed doors, Union fans were denied what would have been the crowning moment for their club, watching on as their team faced Bayern Munich at home.

The first 10 minutes aside, Union sat deep and showed far too much respect to Bayern, simply allowing the reigning champions to dictate play and push forward in an aggressive 2-4-4 shape. Putting it simply, the home side was flooded.

Was this a result of having no fans in the stadium? It’s hard to pinpoint things to intangibles such as this. Regardless, you cannot help but feel sad for a group of fans who have built this club from the ground up.