It’s an old sports cliché that offense wins games and defense wins championships. We can say that FC Bayern’s back line won them a DFB-Pokal title, 4:2 against Leverkusen, on Saturday.
While defense has to be effective for a team to succeed at the highest level, Hansi Flick’s reshaping of the Bavarian back four is nothing short of magical. These guys did the heavy lifting against Leverkusen from the opening minute, putting the team on the path to victory.
It all started with long balls by Jérôme Boateng and Benjamin Pavard. They respectively fed Kingsley Coman and Robert Lewandowski. Both attackers showed poise and technique to control and bring the ball forward and work on creating scoring chances.
The team constantly worked on getting behind Leverkusen’s back four, with a high line of defense in which Joshua Kimmich often dropped back for control. They helped drive the attack.
Ready for a fight
Whenever challenged, the defenders answered with: “I’m ready for a fight” just like Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby.
Pavard made a perfect run back and slide tackle to kill a chance after getting bypassed by a daring forward pass (11′). Alphonso Davies was his usual, fantastic, self on and off the ball and he shined defensively against Kai Havertz. He got into tight space near the touch line on the left to relay the ball (55′). David Alaba opened fire with a beautiful free kick to put in the first goal, further setting the tone in this match.
Boateng didn’t leave the pitch without fine accomplishments. A penetrating run in the midfield launched the attack (21′) and a brilliant flick of the right foot deflected a ball that was perhaps destined to produce Leverkusen’s only clear-cut scoring chance in the first half (42′). He dove to redirect a most dangerous cross to safety (63′).
Pavard defended staunchly against Leon Bailey to force a corner on a dangerous shot (75′).
Collective pressing, creativity and a superball by Manuel Neuer to Lewandowski did the rest of the work up front.
The only blip happened on a set piece, when Bayern failed to properly defend a cross for Leverkusen to pull one back. Otherwise, the defense defined this game with a solid performance that enabled the rest of the team.
This matters. A golden defense could be the cornerstone of a Champions League win to complete the second treble in Bayern history. We are not there yet, but the Reds stand as the favourites for the title and they could count on the back four as a driving force to make it happen.