FC Bayern Munich was victorious against FC Viktoria Plzeň away from home, beating the Czech outfit and securing a spot in the knockout rounds of the Champions League with a 4-2 victory. Here’s our observations:
Sadio Mané shows his quality
The panic around Mané has been growing for a while now. After a very bright start, he has tailed off and looked nowhere near the player who scored four goals in his first four games for the club. This wasn’t just panic about a player who is off form. The overriding questions was: Is Mané past his best? Is this the player he is now? Of course, such questions will not be answered against Viktoria Plzeň, with all due respect to them, but the Senegalese showed something he hadn’t in his last few games: his experience and intelligence. Time and again he picked up intelligent positions in and around the box, made clever plays and showed how sharp his footballing brain is when he is on form. This is best exemplified by Mané’s goal, where he made his give and go, as well as finish, look so much simpler than it really was. Hopefully we will see more of this Mané in the future or, at the very least, that he can use his cleverness when things don’t go his way more often.
Clinical finishing proves crucial
While it seemed that Bayern annihilated Viktoria Plzeň in the first half (and they did, to an extent), it helped that Bayern’s finishing was very clinical. The first four shots on target went in, helping Bayern build a lead so formidable even a spirited comeback from Plzeň was unable to overtake it. Bayern did take it easy in the second half, but it’s a surprise to look at the stats and see that both sides had the same amount of shots at 15. Bayern undoubtedly had the better opportunities, but it was good to see Bayern’s finishing look up to the task today after multiple weeks of below par finishing.
Nagelsmann is doomed if he does, doomed if he doesn’t
Pre-game discussions were dominated by the fact that Julian Nagelsmann put out his strongest available XI and did not give a starting berth to Ryan Gravenberch or Mathys Tel. But once a spirited Viktoria Plzeň scored their second goal, there were complaints about Bayern throwing away another lead after throwing away a win in the last minute against Borussia Dortmund. Ultimately, when young players play, you need to expect more mistakes to be made and for some goals to be conceded. It’s an oversimplification, perhaps, but the fact that people criticized the Bayern coach for not playing youngsters and then got frustrated at the end result of playing youngsters in the second half, speaks to the massive expectations for Nagelsmann and how it can be really hard to integrate youngsters while maintaining Bayern’s standards.
Two months off his 17th birthday, Paul Wanner made his UCL debut. As a left back. And Bayern conceded minutes after he came on. But it’s still a milestone moment for the incredibly talented Bayern youngster in a year full of them. And Wanner got plenty of touches and involvements in the attacking phases in his twenty-odd minutes on the pitch.
Congratulations, Paul. You deserved it.