Created on 13-12-2018 at 12:00 PM
Speaking at the press conference ahead of the game against Ajax, Serge Gnabry promised a "thriller" and that was exactly what the two teams provided. High tempo, full of commitment, great passion and a breathtaking atmosphere at the Johan Cruyff ArenA gave the fans six goals, two penalties and two sendings off – a first in a Champions League game. The match ended in a 3-3 draw with Bayern ending the group stage in top spot ahead of Ajax.
Again and again the game turned in favour of Bayern or the hosts. Robin Lewandowski's opener (13') was cancelled out by Dusan Tadic on 61 minutes and the Serb gave Ajax the lead from the penalty spot (81'). That was the start of an enthralling closing stage of the game. Three minutes before the end of normal time, Lewandowski levelled with his second goal (87'), also from the penalty spot – that was his eighth goal in the current Champions League campaign putting him top of the goalscorer's list.
When Kingsley Coman restored the lead (90') with a delightful curler, everybody thought Bayern would win but Ajax hit back once again with Niklas Süle (90' +5) restoring parity with an own goal as he attempted to clear his lines. There were deserved red cards for Maximilian Wöber (67') and Thomas Müller (75').
"We definitely experienced an extremely emotional European night," was the consequent conclusion of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge at the official post-match banquet, "I think if you look back at the game then it's right that we didn't see anybody lose. Ajax played well, FC Bayern played well." Niko Kovac was also enthusiastic, "We saw a sensationally good game today and the spectators got their money’s worth. That was a great advert for football."
"We had the clearer chances and could have wrapped it up"
Bayern are not in seventh heaven despite winning the group and Lewandowski's impressive strike record. Three goals conceded and a draw in spite of being in the lead twice proved to be sobering. "Ajax did really well and they put us under pressure the whole time. We couldn't move the ball around and only very rarely broke free. Then we completely lost control of the game," noted Hasan Salihamidzic, adding, "we can do better!"
"We had the clearer chances and could have wrapped it up," complained Kovac. But FCB did win the group in the end. "That was our target before the game and we've achieved that. Let's celebrate a bit today," said Rummenigge. "It's important to finish top of the group. Everything else is of secondary importance," said captain Manuel Neuer in agreement. Bayern can look back at an impressive group stage.
Round of 16 draw on Monday
"We've twice drawn with a strong Ajax team. We've won everything else and picked up 14 from a possible 18 points. I'm happy," said Kovac in his assessment of the first six Champions League games of the season. "We'll look forward to the next stage with great anticipation," added the coach.
That starts on Monday when Bayern will be glued to the Round of 16 draw in Nyon from 12 noon (live with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic on FC Bayern.tv live). Having finished top of the group, FCB will face a runner-up. There could be some outstanding games. "You play good opponents in every game. We'll see who we come up against," said an already excited Leon Goretzka. After the thriller in Amsterdam, fans players and management can hardly wait for the next European night.