Tenacious Hernández sets Bayern on course for Barca win
With Sadio Mane and birthday boy Thomas Müller - so often the scourge of Barca down the years - on one side, and ex-Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski on the other, there was no shortage of match-winning candidates in Tuesday's Champions League Group C heavyweight clash at the Allianz Arena. One man who wasn't on the radar was Lucas Hernández.
Up until his game-changing contribution, the Frenchman - like the rest of his teammates in his position - had spent most of the time defending. Barca asked all the questions in the first half, but Bayern made it to the break goalless and were able to regroup. Five minutes after the restart, Hernandez turned the tide. Rising highest to meet Joshua Kimmich's near-post corner, the 2018 FIFA World Cup winner used his head to power in the breakthrough.
Hernández saves goals for big stage
It marked Hernandez's second goal on his 104th competitive appearance in a Bayern shirt. He registered his first in a 6-2 Champions League win over Salzburg in November 2020. Apparently the tenacious defender saves his goals for the big stage.
"In the second half, you could see that we wanted to get the win in front of our fans. We just wanted it more than Barcelona," explained captain Manuel Neuer in an indirect nod to Hernandez, who personified Bayern's unbridled will to win.
Hernandez's reaction to a missed Lewandowski opportunity further encapsulated Bayern's win-at-all costs approach. With the score at 2-0 following Leroy Sane's earlier effort, the Frenchman made a telling intervention to deny his former teammate a sight of goal and Barca a possible route back into the contest, before punching the air in celebration.
In the words of Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann, Hernandez "was superb". Together with central defensive partner Dayot Upamecano and goalkeeper Neuer, he contributed to one hugely frustrating day at the office for the Barcelona attack.
Suspected injury dampens joy
Such was the collective commitment to the cause, Hernández and Co. put bodies on the line to see out the win. Unfortunately for Hernández, that translated into a late knock which required treatment at full time.
Hernández felt "something go in the groin," explained Nagelsmann in his post-match press conference, later saying "a scan" will be required for an exact diagnosis. Needless to say, the Bayern coach will not want to be without Hernández on current form.
Match reaction to the win over Barcelona: