Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Bayern Munich 2-1 RB Leipzig: Talking points as Kane brace keeps Bavarian title hopes alive

Veselin Trajkovic in Bundesliga, Editorial 24 Feb 2024

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Bayern Munich ended their woeful streak of three consecutive defeats in all competitions by beating RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena on Saturday evening. Harry Kane broke the deadlock with a fine finish in the 56th minute, and the visitors cancelled it out through a deflected shot by Benjamin Sesko 14 minutes later. However, Kane struck again just as the 90 minutes expired, setting the final score at 2-1.

The first half

The two halves of this game seemed like two different games. In the first, Bayern easily kept the ball in Leipzig’s half through determined high pressing and good organization in the middle of the park.

However, once in the final third, they struggled to break through the double line of four that barred the way towards Janis Blaswich’s goal. For a long time, the only way to get the ball into the box was to go wide and whip it in from there, but every time they did that, the Leipzig defence reacted immaculately.

The downside to such an approach from Leipzig, keeping their midfield line close to the defence, was rather obvious. Upfront, forwards Lois Openda and Sesko were completely cut off from the rest of the team for very large spells, unable to get on the end of most long balls aimed their way from the back. Only occasionally would Xavi Simons or Dani Olmo try to carry the ball forward, but they rarely got far enough to create anything to trouble Manuel Neuer.

The second half

In the second half, however, the visitors gradually opened up and the contest became far more interesting. While Bayern still dominated the ball, both teams were getting closer to the opposition goal. Leipzig came very close to taking the lead through Mohamed Simakan, who got on the end of a well-taken corner to hit goalwards from some 15 yards, missing the target by a foot or two.

But Leipzig’s more open approach expectedly left a little more space for Bayern to exploit at the other end, and that’s exactly what happened in the 56th minute. Jamal Musiala carried the ball close to the box and passed it through a thinned back line to find Kane. Once inside the box, turned towards goal with the ball at his feet, the England captain did what he does best, firing past Blaswich. But joy quickly turned to disbelief in the stands of the Allianz Arena as Leipzig struck back.

For all his reported desire to play more, Matthijs de Ligt will want to question his own commitment in the situation when Sesko equalized. The Slovenian striker was on the edge of the box with the ball at his feet, and while the rest of the Bayern defence, along with midfielder Leon Goretzka, dove in to try and block the shot, the Netherlands international stool as if turned to stone, watching everything unfold without showing any intention of intervening. He might as well have put his hands in his pockets and whistled.

Having previously come on to replace Musiala, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting pulled the ball from the left-wing position into the middle of the box, and that’s where Kane usually lurks ready to pounce. The Leipzig defence appeared tired by that time and the former Spurs man was practically unmarked as he blasted past Blaswich for the second time.

The aftermath

The pressure has significantly lifted from the shoulders of Bayern head coach Thomas Tuchel following the club’s announcement that they would be parting ways at the end of the season. Too late though it is for him to fight for his job, his ability to motivate his team to rise above the stupor of recent failures and finally win a game, against worthy opposition as well, will surely come in handy when other potential employers consider his qualities in the summer.

It has been said that Tuchel would be open to working at Manchester United, feeling he still has unfinished business in the Premier League. Barcelona are believed to be considering him as a replacement for the departing Xavi Hernandez as well.

Meanwhile, all this victory has done for Bayern was to keep their slim hopes of retaining the Bundesliga title alive, reducing the 11-point deficit following Bayer Leverkusen’s triumph over Mainz 05 on Friday, back to eight. But even the most optimistic among the Bayern faithful will be thinking it was realistic to expect Xabi Alonso’s side to falter so heavily before the end of the season.

The “Kane curse”

Harry Kane is undoubtedly a legend of Tottenham Hotspur, but for all his heroics in North London, he is still to win a major trophy in an otherwise illustrious career. With that in mind, his desire to leave Spurs for Bayern last summer is easy to understand, but it seems joining a club that wins trophies all the time hasn’t worked very well for the 30-year-old hitman.

Having won the league title in Germany for 11 consecutive seasons, Bayern are irresistibly sliding towards losing it to Leverkusen. They were knocked out of the DFB-Pokal by third-tier side Saarbrucken, and they’re down to Lazio after the first leg of their clash in the Champions League round of 16. They could, of course, overturn that deficit at the Allianz Arena, but given the problems they’ve been facing, expecting them to go on to win the Champions League doesn’t really seem realistic. And yet, it’s the best chance they’ve got.

The fact that Kane’s wait for a trophy appears likely to continue despite playing for a club like Bayern has sparked plenty of banter at his expense, with many jokingly referring to Bayern’s ongoing woes as “the Kane curse”. And yet, it can hardly be the fault of the player who scored 31 goals in as many appearances for the club, along with eight assists.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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