Bayern concedes an early goal against Schalke, then struggles against the ultra-defensive opponents. A lack of movement and bad set-piece defending cause a meaningful loss.
It was a bit of a do-or-die situation for both teams: Bayern needed a win to not only gain confidence after Saturday’s home loss against Dortmund but also to qualify for the DFB Cup final, their only remaining chance to win a domestic title. Schalke on the other hand had to win this game to be able to qualify for the Europa League, a minimum requirement for the debt ridden club to avoid major financial trouble.
Louis van Gaal decided to give Breno a chance (not least because of Badstuber’s recent poor performance) and ‘finally’ let Luiz Gustavo play in his preferred position again. Everybody expected Felix Magath to use the 4-4-2 they’ve used for quite some time now, it shouldn’t have been a problem for Mario Gavranovic to replace the injured Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. But instead Magath decided for a defensive-minded 4-3-3 with the sole purpose to outnumber Bayern’s wingers without neglecting the middle.
And what can I say? It worked well for Schalke. It was obvious that Bayern wasn’t prepared for such a deep-lying opponent (to be fair, this was not the kind of strategy you normally expect from a Champions League team but considering Schalke’s situation, they should’ve known better). While the hosts were still trying to figure out what to do, Schalke got exactly what they wanted: a set-piece. A Jefferson Farfan corner was redirected by Benedikt Höwedes (Bastian Schweinsteiger didn’t react well despite it being a well-known fact that Höwedes is their most dangerous player in the air) and Raul easily scored what turned out to be the only goal of the match. While Bayern was still paralyzed, Schalke could’ve scored a second but missed a couple of chances (all set-pieces or counter attacks, there were no ‘real’ Schalke attacks).
The second half started and there finally was some off-the-ball movement. Louis van Gaal tried a couple of things, his substitutions made sense: Toni Kroos replaced Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Gustavo now officially was center back but the more accurate description would be very deep-lying playmaker) and even Miroslav Klose and Daniel van Buyten played alongside Mario Gomez for the desparated, ultimate goal threat trio Bayern has to offer. But the few chances Bayern created were either missed or saved by Manuel Neuer who, unsurprisingly, was constantly booed by a certain part of the FCB fans because they prefer Thomas Kraft over the German international.
In the end, a deserved loss for Bayern. As much as I’d like to avoid calling Schalke the deserved winner, you can’t argue against their successful ultra-defensive approach. I think this match was a classic example of whoever scores first, wins.
Goals: 0-1 Raul (15′)
FC Bayern: Toni Kroos (Tymoshchuk, 59′), Miroslav Klose (Müller, 77′), Daniel van Buyten (Gustavo, 82′)
Schalke 04: Julian Draxler (Jurado, 61′), Lukas Schmitz (Sarpei, 82′), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Annan, 89′)
Other DFB Cup matches:
Duisburg v Cottbus 2-1 (Maierhofer, Baljak; Petersen)
Next match: Saturday @ Hannover (Bundesliga), 3.30 pm local time