FC Bayern München notched another impressive win at Leverkusen, 6:2, to qualify for the DFB-Pokal final, but this team is a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
At issue is consistency.
Aggression from the start
Die Bayern often had difficult starts this season. It was nice to see the opposite on Tuesday evening, with Jérôme Boateng sending a solid diagonal ball to Thomas Müller on the left. Bernd Leno may have saved the header, but he conceded a juicy rebound that Javi Martínez could not miss (3′). Six minutes later, an uncovered Robert Lewandowski coolly converted a Franck Ribéry cross for a 2:0 lead.
It was a rare robust start that made me smile.
Defensive fragility not gone
The team however, defended badly in a fast-paced first half. Mats Hummels had no idea where he was, or where the ball was, when Lars Bender pulled one back. He made several mistakes throughout the game, which only adds to concerns about his form in recent weeks.
Jupp Heynckes went into the tunnel in a properly pissed off mood after that half, after gesticulating his lack of satisfaction at what he saw.
Last weekend, a Deutsche Welle reporter asked me what more Bayern fans could ask for, commenting on a convincing performance against Gladbach. A more consistent defense and a decisive Hummels would be greatly welcome.
Second half wonders
A different Bayern stormed out of the gates at the restart, exploding in Leverkusen’s face and scoring four consecutive goals.
The team became dominant and the Werkself had no answer for the precision and strength on display. This is the kind of Bayern we need to have against Real Madrid in the Champions League. If we see the second half’s display in the final stages of the season, we can make the case for a second treble in the club’s history.
For most of the season, I wished to see a return to form from Jérôme Boateng. If this game is to be used as a yardstick, damn do we have it!
Boa was everywhere, serving gorgeous diagonal balls to the left wing and slide-tackling Karim Bellarabi to rob him off the ball.
The big defender killed a few counters with daring but timely interventions in the midfield. He also gave the referee an earful on many occasions to defend his teammates.
Sven Ulreich made several big saves, robbing Leverkusen of a couple of certain goals. It took a spectacular free kick by Leon Bailey to beat him decisively in the second half.
One can reasonably argue that Ulreich should play for the rest of the season, no matter when Manuel Neuer returns. Class is permanent, of course, but Ulreich has been in scintillating form for months and Neuer has been out twice with long-term foot injuries.
Timing is extremely important in sports and Die Bayern do not have the luxury of risking anything. A tie with Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals is coming, and a treble may be on the line.