First game back, and an easy win for the defending German champions. Sounds routine enough.
But we didn’t see the high-octane, exciting version of Bayern Munich on Sunday evening, the version that was highly anticipated by many.
We didn’t get to watch their pacy players like Serge Gnabry wreck havoc on their opponents. The duo of Thomas Müller and Leon Goretzka wasn’t at their threatening best either.
Yet in the end, the game became another standard win for Die Roten. And football felt normal again.
For the incredible effort put on by Union Berlin to keep Bayern’s attacking threat to an absolute minimum, they simply didn’t have the quality to seriously trouble their opponents.
At times, the game resembled a training practice for the away side, with the lack of a noisy fan atmosphere we’ve seen from the hosts in other games a real shame. Their lack of attacking threats also played a part in creating this perception.
Taking the opening ten minutes aside, where he was forced into action by the bustling Anthony Ujah, Manuel Neuer barely had to dive around during the game. In fact, his main contribution was to hold onto the ball before handing it off again to a teammate.
And while the high defensive line employed by his teammates looked early on to be vulnerable, the lack of quality in Union Berlin’s attack meant that the likes of Jerome Boateng and David Alaba were never seriously troubled for the majority of the game.
Professional performance from Bayern Munich overall, comfortable defensively, Davies and Kimmich outstanding. Union Berlin troubled them first 10 minutes getting in behind but Bayern settled. Kimmich delivery for Pavard’s goal was wonderful, pinpoint cross and go 4 clear.
— Josh Bunting (@Buntingfootball) May 17, 2020
Watching them play today brought back memories of a previous version of Bayern that was managed by Pep Guardiola, as the visitors looked comfortable in retaining possession and patiently moved the ball from flank to flank, searching for an opening.
And if not for their opponents’ great defensive organisation, and willingness to put their bodies on the line to block every shot attempt that came from the defending champions, they certainly would have scored more than just the two.
Nonetheless, they took their chances in clinical fashion. You would have probably bet your house on Robert Lewandowski converting his penalty and still be confident that he would score, which he did – his 40th goal in all competitions for the 2019/20 season.
And though we had to wait until the very end, another goal was always coming. When Pavard took advantage of some slack marking from a corner to nod in the decisive blow, it demonstrated the ruthlessness of the German league leaders to finish off the hosts.
Yes, it wasn’t the sharpest display we’ve seen from Bayern. There was certainly evidence of rust on the pitch, whether it was in their movement or a misplaced pass here or there. But overall, Flick looks to have little to be concerned about. His side took their chances, and played out a comfortable win that they set out to obtain.
Attention now turns to their next set of fixtures. And while a home game against Eintracht Frankfurt looks easy on paper, it’s hard to forget they were trounced 5-1 by Die Adler in the reverse fixture.
Not only do they need to take care of business in that game, but also when they make the trip to their Bundesliga title rivals Borussia Dortmund a few days later. Lucien Favre’s side looked imperious in their 4-0 derby rout of Schalke 04 and will definitely be out for revenge, having been crushed 4-0 at the Allianz Arena in November.
Those games aren’t ones where Die Roten can expect to turn up and win by having world-class players. They’ll need to step up their intensity, and perfect the attacking movement we’ve seen them use to devastating effect.
So yes, this was a pretty easy win for Bayern. But as they came off the pitch having strolled to their win on Sunday, their attention switched over to the bigger challenges that lie in store for them.