MAnuel Neuer has been the hero on many occasions but here, he almost found a new way to be. Joshua Kimmich hit a header in the 95th minute from a corner kick but his opposite number, outstanding Rafai Jekevich, veered on his line and rushed to push it away with his left hand. Seconds later, Neuer staggered into the ball after Alfonso Davies raised it again, and Jekevich flew away again, to frantic praise from his teammates. The approbation is up to the Polish goalkeeper, not the German, this time around.
But since when did Bayern turn to this? Neuer was in the Augsburg penalty area, as Bayern Munich desperately sought to get out of their first defeat. Bundesliga Season, it was an admission of desperation. They weren’t capable of that, but their highly ornate last line of defense was almost able to make a difference to the other party was a troubling thing. One of the headlines in Sunday’s Bild newspaper did not miss the opportunity to highlight that Neuer had more effort on goal than Sadio Mane in a dwindling loss to nearby local neighbors, an hour northwest of Munich, who may have made their presence felt. In the first class but they do not have the status that could even be described as competitors.
The second half of the victory over Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday calmed the growing concern about Bayern after three consecutive draws in the German League. This extension of the unsuccessful domestic track to four raised the level of those dissenting voices to 11 higher than ever. Robert Lewandowski’s refusal of a string of chances in the first half of his first return to Allianz Arena has given Julian Nagelsmann – who he didn’t always see eye to eye – a favour, allowing the coach’s parity to underline. Between the halves, to rearrange and move forward and win the match. Lewandowski recovered from his frustration in the middle of the week to score two more goals in La Liga on the outing of Barcelona’s win over Elche, not escaping from Bavaria’s gaze.
After this result, the hole left by Lewandowski’s departure, real or imagined, yawns larger than life, fueling the longing for a simpler time when everything would be more clear. Lewandowski plays, Lewandowski scores. Augsburg winner Mergim Berisha’s clever finish at the other end just an hour ago, giving Enrico Maassen’s men an undeserved victory, was just one of a string of pointers towards the view that Big Number Nines Rule is OK.
This, along with the drama of Byrne looking like a human, all sheds light on some actual facts; That Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic, who made clear their dissatisfaction with the performance and the result after the match, are happy with the composition of the team, that Nagelsmann’s football is more willing to thrive without a more traditional number nine, and that Bayern had 19 shots on target without making it matter, just Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Jan Sommer also saved 19 goals against Bayern Munich at the start of this frustrating, winless round.
However, just as Nagelsmann has retained the club’s confidence – and they really need this to work after spending a world record €25m to break his deal with RB Leipzig last year – he is smart enough to know that all the good operations in the world mean little if they don’t fall. Results. Not bad enough yet for Thomas Tuchel to really loom in the background, but having a recent Champions League winner in the background isn’t ideal for Nagelsmann. “It doesn’t really matter what I answer now,” he said when asked if his team still needed Lewandowski. If you say no, that means he doesn’t see the problem. If I say yes, everyone will write that he misses Lewandowski.”
Statistically, you can see the significance of the naysayers. Augsburg, who has been occasionally dabbling in Bayern ointment for the past decade – just ask Pep Guardiola – has ended Bayern’s record-breaking consecutive goalscoring record (86), and if the panic stops aren’t there yet, there’s reason to consider the international break.
The coach retains the confidence of his superiors. Salihamidzic insisted Nagelsmann’s future was “not an issue” while Kahn defended the club’s recruitment. “We have everything we need,” he said, and is excited about our “attacking players with tremendous speed.”
Finding clarity and reason while Bayern Munich are in this race, is no easy feat. The atmosphere around a traditional Sunday visit to Oktoberfest was tense, and it would take weeks of compelling performances to blow that feeling. “I think about everything,” Nagelsmann said. “About the situation. About Me. about everything.”
It’s all well and good, but the nuances will always be lost when Bayern falls short of their impeccable standards. And he knows it.
Another big name currently on a hole creating their own is Bayer Leverkusen, who drew 1-1 with (unbeaten away) Werder Bremen thanks to Milos Velikovic’s goal in the last 10 minutes of the match, which followed a nasty foul. by Lukas Hradecky, who failed to clear the head of Niclas Füllkrug. With just one win in seven matches so far, Gerardo Siwan is under pressure despite his impressive midweek win over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
Union Berlin is in the opposite situation. They recovered from their second successive Europa League defeat by beating struggling Wolfsburg 2-0 – settled by Jordan Sepacho and Shiraldo Becker – and retaining the Bundesliga leadership. Urs Fischer’s team is also thrilled with the return of Timo Baumgartel after recovering from testicular cancer. He said, “I imagined this during chemotherapy, the hardest moment of my life, coming back for this moment.”
There was more history for Yusuf Mukoko, who is now the youngest Revierderby The top scorer after he replaced Borussia Dortmund to head the winner over Schalke. After the match, the 17-year-old admitted to his performance full of urgency, of “angry in my stomach, because I wanted to start”. There is a growing belief that he should start in place of Anthony Modeste after another pedestrian show.
The win was marred by the unfortunate sight of captain Marco Reus suffering an ankle injury in the first half with a serious ankle injury, with immediate concerns about his World Cup preparation (and poor Reus being here before). The initial prognosis on Sunday morning was even more promising, with sporting director Sebastian Keel suggesting he would miss “three weeks” rather than months.
It was a tough first week in Leipzig with Marco Rose – after meeting a former club in Dortmund and then traveling to Real Madrid in the middle of the week, he took his team to another former club in Mönchengladbach, where he (and formerly Gladbach, future Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl met) With chants and banners of such hostility that referee Patrick Ettrich removed the latter, causing some consternation, before allowing the match to proceed. This partially overshadowed a second heavy away defeat in four days, as two goals from Jonas Hoffman made the hosts a miserable day for Rose over the course of each round.