FC Bayern München’s 0:0 draw against Sevilla was not the most entertaining match of the season but it showed that the Reds can handle pressure situations in important matches.
It was far from perfect, but I can live with it.
Bend but don’t break
Not extending their 2:1 lead, you could say that the Bavarians played with fire but they applied one of the most tested tricks in sport. That’s “bend but don’t break”.
For a change, the Bavarians started strongly. They dominated the opening minutes with sharp passes, leading to chances for Arjen Robben, James Rodríguez and Robert Lewandowski. They also came back energetically to prevent counterattacks.
Unfortunately, that was followed by nervous moments in more defensive phases of the match. A conservative strategy in their own half could not prevent Sevilla from making incisive passes. Javi Martínez made unusual mistakes, especially when he left the defense exposed, forcing Rafinha to save the day with a strong sliding tackle in the 45th minute.
More nervous moments in the second half, with a defence that was barely able to contain the Spanish side’s attacks. On the other hand, the Reds did keep a clean sheet, paving the way to the semis with a stressful but mature performance.
Sometimes you need just that.
Rafinha the Dragon
Who would have thought that the diminutive Rafinha would breathe fire at left-back? He provided nice aerial crosses and made fearsome, fearless challenges in difficult situations.
If anyone needs evidence that Rafinha is a better left-back than Juan Bernat, the sliding tackle he made late in the first half should be the most convincing exhibit on display.
Although better on the right, Raf was often better positioned than Bernat is on average. There were, however, some shaky moments. Miscommunication with Ribéry and a few wobbly steps made me wonder if he would be up to the task in the first half.
Franck Ribéry may not be a master dribbler anymore, but he plays damn well for a man who just celebrated his 35th birthday. Tricky when making forward runs and drifting inside, he also held the ball well on several occasions.
More importantly, the left winger still has incredible chemistry with Arjen Robben. The pair of wingers traded lateral passes to create scoring chances. Ribéry’s huge shot off a Robben cross tested goalkeeper David Soria’s ability to make a reflex save in the first half.
Ribs was also in fine position to score off a Thomas Müller cross late in the half, but the play was broken up by a defender.
Sevilla are tough to play. They came into this game with the intent to play rougher football, making slide tackles, head to head aerial challenges, punching, grabbing and going after every ball.
They were rough on Robert Lewandowski… who tried too hard to milk fouls instead of playing the ball. I found him too silent as a striker while being vocal as a victim.
Sevilla attacked Sven Ulreich twice and committed a handful of late fouls away from the ball. Their Seviolence was an effective deterrent to contain Bayern’s attack over 90 minutes.
In the end, however, Correa deserved his red card for the 49837th late challenge on Javi. A disgrace.