FCB into cup quarters
Thu, 07/02/19, 16:18
'Team spirit made the difference'
The goal which finally settled this thriller at Hertha Berlin was symbolic of Bayern's performance on a cold cup evening in Berlin. In extra time, Robert Lewandowski crossed a seemingly lost ball into the middle of the goal area, where Kingsley Coman won an aerial battle against three Berlin defenders and nodded in the winning goal to make it 3-2 in the 98th minute. With this energetic performance, the Reds brought "a hard job of work," as Niko Kovac put it, to a positive conclusion. They showed fighting spirit and morale, and also that they can cope with setbacks.
The first shock in the game came early. In the 3rd minute, Maximilian Mittelstädt put the home team 1-0 up with the first shot on target. "We immediately conceded, but came up with the right answer straight away," said Niklas Süle, speaking about team mate Serge Gnabry, who levelled the score just four minutes later. Afterwards, head coach Nico Kovac was full of praise: "I have to pay the lads a compliment. They responded really well. They displayed terrific determination and kept moving the ball well, playing like we all want to play."
Following Berlin's opening goal, the visitors upped the ante and dominated the game completely. Hertha's attack was as good as non-existent. The impressive Gnabry's second goal after 49 minutes to make it 2-1 was a logical consequence - the 23-year-old was directly involved in every other Bayern attempt until his substitution in the 89th minute. "I try to give it my all in every game, and I was particularly successful today," the Germany international said afterwards.
Nevertheless, the record cup winners had one more cause for concern. "We dominated the game completely and if I hadn't made that mistake, we'd have easily left the pitch as victors after 90 minutes. So I earned us a period of extra time today," Mats Hummels ruefully explained. The central defender made a blunder in the 67th minute with a back-header to goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, which let Berlin's Davie Selke steal the ball and fire the home team back into the game with only their second shot on goal. Hence Bayern's superiority, which the post-match statistics of 74% possession and a shot count margin of 23 to 4 clearly displayed, was finally reduced to absurdity.
Collective battle to the end
"We're making mistakes we must not make," Kovac remarked. "We got ourselves into trouble. We shouldn't have to wait till extra time to win games like this," the 47-year-old's analysis continued. Instead, his team had to work hard for an extra half an hour until they reached the quarter-finals thanks to Coman, a "fully and richly deserved" outcome, according to Kovac. The quarter-finals will take place on 2/3 April 2019 and will be drawn next Sunday. In addition to a lightness of play, however, the decisive factors were commitment, determination and team spirit: "Team solidarity made a big difference in extra time. We had to earn it the hard way," Süle concluded.
That's exactly what Bayern will have to take away from the game in the coming weeks. Striker Lewandowski put it in a nutshell: "This game means a lot to us - for the future too. It's important for our self-confidence that we're in the next round even after such a difficult game". Hasan Salihamidzic also agreed: "We've found our way back on track. Now we want to keep going, because there are important games coming up and we want to start a good run." When it will be more than welcome if games are settled in the Reds' favour after just 90 minutes.