Proving they’re probably still the best – Bayern Munich’s Klassiker win

EACH season, the same question is asked: can anyone really stop Bayern Munich? There’s sometimes a little suggestion that perhaps the European champions are not totally on their game or signs that another team has got its act together, but for determination and pure skill, nobody seems able to get in Bayern’s way for too long. It has been that way since 2013 and it is beginning to look as if Bayern coach Hansi Flick will get the traditional hose-down with lager once more this year.

Bayern Munich sometimes give a team a head start but still end up comfortable winners. The team has shown, time and time again, they lack nothing in resilience, coming from a goal down 10 times this season to earn at least a point.

Against Borussia Dortmund, Bayern even permitted their opponents a 2-0 lead after nine minutes but came back to win 4-2. Dortmund, it could be argued, scored their goals too early on – Bayern had more than 80 minutes to stage their recovery. The team in yellow also dropped far too deep, almost inviting Bayern to come at them, and they did.

Bayern have lost three Bundesliga games this season, but at home they are unbeaten. RB Leipzig are chasing them hard this season and when Bayern went into the Klassiker, they were in second place after RB Leipzig had beaten Freiburg 3-0 to temporarily leapfrog them. Their form has been patchy at times, prompting criticism from the Bayern top tier, and they have been quite uncharacteristic in defence. They haven’t conceded as many goals in league games for almost 30 years. 

They must have been cheering heartily over in eastern Germany when 20 year-old Erling Haaland drove a left foot shot past Manny Neuer in just over a minute’s play. Haaland, a force of nature if ever there was one, did it again eight minutes later, finishing off a superb passage of play as he swept the ball in at the near post, Jamie Vardy style.

Haaland did his cause no harm at all and his performance only served to emphasise his excellent finishing and enormous promise. Flick has tenuously hinted his club might be interested in acquiring the young Norwegian goal machine and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is, apparently, opening his cheque book in anticipation of a summer raid on Dortmund. 

The list of Haaland’s suitors is akin to the modern A to Z of European football, including Barcelona, Real Madrid and the two Manchester clubs. Bayern, however, may be favourites – they have been very adept at snatching  their rivals’ best players over the past decade, strengthening  their own squad while weakening the opposition – invariably BVB.

Haaland, who went off injured, is the most obvious heir apparent to Robert Lewandowski, who netted a hat-trick against his former club and took his tally to 31 Bundesliga goals for the season. The evergreen Pole has now scored 276 league goals, making him one of the Bundesliga’s all-time greats of the penalty area. Haaland, meanwhile hit his 100th goal, a landmark that has been achieved in under 150 games. 

Lewandowski will be 33 in August but still has two years remaining on his contract. He shows no sign of slowing-up judging by this season’s haul. There has been talk of him moving to the US to finish his career in Major League Soccer, but he’s likely to see out his contract with Bayern. 

Flick’s side returned to the top of the table after their 4-2 win against Dortmund, two points clear of Leipzig. Their 71 goals in 24 games is a remarkable figure given the next highest scoring club in the league is Dortmund on 50. What is notable this season is that Bayern have conceded 34 goals in 24 games.  

RB Leipzig will not allow Bayern to accelerate into the distance without a fight, but having lost one piece of their 2020 treble in the DFB Pokal (against Holstein Kiel), Bayern will be eager to make it nine consecutive titles. They will also be out to retain the Champions League and they are already as good as through to the last eight having won 4-1 away to Lazio in the first leg of the round of 16.

Borussia Dortmund were without England’s Jadon Sancho, but Bayern have long been their bete noire, it is almost seven years since they won a league game in Munich. And Bayern like to score against them by the bucketload. In the previous six meetings in Bavaria, they notched-up 26 goals against BVB, conceding just three times. At least the Allianz saw a closer contest this time, even if the outcome provided more evidence that Bayern will most likely make it nine in a row come the end of the campaign. Watch out for RB Leipzig versus Bayern Munich on April 3.


UEFA Champions League: Bayern Munich, and quite rightly

IN RECENT years, Champions League finals have not been dull but this one was a little on the uninteresting side at times, definitely not the goal feast some people suggested it might be. To put it into context: Bayern, in 50 games prior to the final, were involved in just three games settled by a single goal. PSG a couple more. Between them, they had scored 292 goals and conceded 82. Little wonder the pundits were predicting a game of net-bulging thrills and spills between two of Europe’s wealthiest clubs.

But it wasn’t to be. This wasn’t one of those grim finals that characterised the 1980s and almost every game involving an English team, but it didn’t live up to expectations. Neither did Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, the world’s most expensive front line. Bayern had two thirds of the possession, but they managed only two shots on target, one less than Paris Saint-Germain.


After the excitement of the previous games in Lisbon, which have been compelling by any standards, this was something of a damp squib of a final for the uncommitted. Much better to remember how Bayern pulled apart Barcelona, Chelsea and Tottenham earlier in the year-long 2019-20 season to benchmark the strength of the new champions. As for PSG, for all the talk of them “returning to win the trophy in the future”, this may have been their best opportunity spurned.

You only have to look at how almost a decade has passed since Pep Guardiola’s last win 2021 when he might be able to lift the huge trophy once more, or Barcelona’s string of recent let-downs. Champions League success is not cyclical, it is not easily attained and competition is fierce. The current PSG team, the creation of an impatient regime, may not be given the time to return and conquer, but it is worth noting this was the first time they had come up against a genuine peer in the knockout stage – teams like Dortmund, Atalanta and Leipzig are not in the same group as Bayern.

Kingsley Coman, a former PSG player, scored the winning goal on the hour, a nicely-taken header from Joshua Kimmich’s perfect cross. Coman’s inclusion in the team, at the expense of Ivan Perisic, was justified by his overall performance, the 24 year-old certainly overshadowed the bigger names on the field.

Coman became the first player to score an outright winning goal since Arjen Robben for Bayern against Borussia Dortmund in 2013 as well as the fourth Frenchman to score a winning goal in the European Cup/Champions League. All finals since then have either been settled by more than one goal or in the case of 2016, on penalties. The last 1-0 final, there have been 16, was in 1998 when Real Madrid beat Juventus 1-0.

Coman, who expressed his mixed feelings about scoring against his old club, a French club to boot, represented a contrasting figure to the sun king that is Neymar. He was a forlorn figure at the end, disconsolate, the heir apparent to the Messi-Ronaldo axis who has yet to tick all the right boxes. As the figurehead of “Project PSG” he looked like a man who had found a centime and lost a € 100 note. Will he be around for another attempt?


Maybe not at PSG, but this is not a player who has an empty trophy cabinet at home: five league titles, five domestic FA cups, one Champions League, one Copa Libertadores and 101 caps for Brazil (61 goals). Yet he was signed to make PSG European champions, as were the ever-changing roll-call of managers. The ego has taken a bruising, nothing else, at worst, Neymar will move on, trousering a huge salary and signing-on fee. But will Neymar’s hobbling coach, Thomas Tuchel, survive this setback?

Bayern, who replaced their coach with Hansi Flick, and rediscovered their mojo, have looked like Europe’s best side for the past few months. They are worthy champions, exciting, fast, venomous in front of goal and they have the best centre forward in football at the moment in Robert Lewandowski. When the 2019-20 season started, he was 30, he has just turned 32! He netted 55 goals in 47 games, including 15 in the Champions League. But the final largely belonged to Bayern’s younger set – with the exception of man of the match Manny Neuer -and with the likes of the excellent Alphonso Davies just 19, the future looks bright for Bayern. When did it last look anything but?

But let’s have no talk of the new Bayern era or any “best ever” claims. Football is getting a little tedious in its culture of “presentism”. Manchester City 2019 and Liverpool 2020 have both been declared all-time greats and critics and now wondering if Bayern can be stopped. This year, no, but any one of their peers could perform an upset against them – even teams considered to be outside the elite band. That said, Bayern are normally eliminated by the eventual winners – as in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2015 and 2014.

Bayern’s victory, the sixth in their illustrious history, will be seen as the lesser of two evils by those who retch at the mere mention of modern football’s corporatisation and state involvement.



Photo: PA Images