5 reasons Bayern conquered Fortress Alte Försterei
Bayern knew it wouldn't be an easy game after their DFB Cup defeat in Mönchengladbach. The fixture list meant the Reds would be heading to the Stadion an der Alten Försterei, where Union Berlin were on the Bundesliga's current longest unbeaten home run of 21 games. They had even beaten Gladbach 2-1 on Matchday 3. They were also the only team Bayern failed to beat in the Bundesliga last season. But FCB conquered the Alte Försterei this time. We've got five reasons to explain how they did it.
Assistant coach Dino Toppmöller said before the game that Bayern can expect a similar opponent to Gladbach. He also used the word "focus", which is exactly what we saw in the first 40 minutes. The champions were focussed and looking calm on the ball. They were moving it about and enjoyed over 70% possession, finding a teammate with a good 90% of passes, the balance between attack and defence was spot on. That was perfectly demonstrated in the 34th minute after a long ball out of defence. Robert Lewandowski turned playmaker to play the ball out right to Kingsley Coman. He crossed, Thomas Müller diverted it on in a way it seems only he can, and Leroy Sane put it away. Even in the second half, with Union almost managing to get back into the game, Bayern ended any hopes of a home comeback with two focussed attacks. It also proved that their heads were in the right place.
2. Set pieces
You always have to concentrate at set pieces. It's good, then, that Bayern have someone in their team who's always calm. Lewandowski held his nerve once again in the 15th minute when he converted a penalty for the opening goal. He's now put away 16 of his last 17 spot-kicks in the Bundesliga. And he did it in a way only he knows, slowing in his run-up, looking at which way the goalkeeper is moving, and then putting the ball in the other corner.
His second goal was just as effective -- this time from a free-kick. On the edge of the box, you maybe would've thought it was Sane territory to curl it over the wall. But it was Lewy, who was himself fouled to win the set piece, who stepped up to fire home a training ground move. A simple routine of tapping the ball to one side and rendering the position of the wall useless. And smashing it past the blindsided goalkeeper.
3. Agile attack
But it wasn't just Lewy who impressed. The whole attack with Coman, Sane and Müller played very well. They moved about, could be found on the left, on the right, up top, deeper as playmakers, always playing passes in behind. It meant they were constantly unpredictable and caused chaos for the Berliners. Bayern could've got more than three goals in the first half, but they kept producing those goalscoring moments after the break.
Even during a spell when it felt like Union would most likely bring it back to 3-2, Coman put an end to that by taking the ball on the run down the right and hammering it home inside the far post for 4-1. The final goal for 5-2 was also a brilliant display of our creative attacking play. Dayot Upamecano dribbled half the length of the pitch before laying it onto Müller, whose curling finish in far corner was excellent. But it's almost what we expect of the one-club man. He's now had a direct hand in seven goals in the last three Bundesliga games. Bayern's attack also achieved two things no other team had ever done: They scored five goals away at Union Berlin in the Bundesliga and they reached 38 goals after only 10 Bundesliga games.
4. Cool heads
It was a real battle at the Alte Försterei, especially in the second half. Müller said we saw the "classic Union", a team who don't give up. And in equally classic Müller style, he described the Berliners' play as "high, wide, fighting, ping-pong". But FCB showed just how clinical they can be. Especially when it looked like the game might tip one way. "We found the right answers with the goals. We won and in the end played a convincing game," Müller also added. A cool head and good timing are what you need at the Alte Försterei, and that was what the Reds had as they saw out the game, winning the second 45 minutes 2-1 as they remained calm and clinical.
5. Clinical finishers
And you don't get much more clinical than our striker Lewandowski. Is there a calmer and more effective frontman on the planet? Looking at his penalty and free-kick, you'd say no. He bagged yet another brace for FCB, taking his total to a league-leading 12 for the campaign. Based on his current rate, he'd end the season on 43 goals and break his record total from last term. Lewy has had a direct hand in at least one goal in each of his last four Bundesliga games (5 goals, 1 assist).
His strike for 2-0 was a brilliant free-kick, but his best action of the game came in the 34th minute as he almost produced another assist. Where other strikers might've been out of their depth, the 33-year-old remained calm, taking the ball down on his chest with his back to goal and flicking it over his head into the path of Sane, who was denied by good reactions from Union goalkeeper Andreas Luthe.
But back to his goals, and he chalked up yet another personal record in Berlin as the first time he'd scored twice in the first 23 minutes of a Bundesliga away game. It was the start of Bayern's capture of the Fortress Alte Försterei after Union's 21 games unbeaten at home.
Thomas Müller enjoyed a brilliant day with four goal contributions: