Bayern ended the season with yet another self-inflicted defeat in a defining game. Eintracht Frankfurt gave the Bavarians a lesson in self-respect and won the DFB-Pokal with a fantastic fighting spirit.
Echoes of 2012
The thing that hurts the most about this defeat is how it leaves Jupp Heynckes’ caretaker stint closer to 2012 than 2013. A month ago, Bayern seemed poised for a second treble. Payback was due against Real Madrid, the league had been wrapped up and the DFB-Pokal lay squarely on die Roten‘s crosshair. Heynckes restored Bayern’s footballing dominance, their confidence and lay those things on the board for the players to do what they had to do.
Alas, they did not. Make no mistake. The players hold every ounce of responsibility for the car crash that became of Bayern’s end-of-season aspirations. Indeed, the Real Madrid tie wiped away all that was psychologically well. As a result, Bayern ended the season feeling more like they did after Dortmund and Chelsea ran them over in 2012.
Maybe, just maybe, this is a good thing. These players have to realise that the badge does not win you games, let alone titles. It represents a burden, rather than an advantage. I will not malign anybody individually, but then again there is little to be salvaged from the wreck. Bayern, as a whole, must repeat the process that led to a shift in mentality after summer 2012.
Bayern crashed the ball twice against the woodwork. One of those events came before Ante Rebić’s opener, when Robert Lewandowski curled a free kick on to the bar. In a cup final, chances will most likely be few and far between. A winning team takes them. A losing one does not.
As with Real Madrid, Bayern have themselves to blame. You can talk all you like about how Kevin Prince Boateng’s kick on Javi Martínez should have yielded a penalty. Maybe Rebić’s second goal should have been ruled out.
Howeer, had Bayern scored the chances they got, all of that would be irrelevant.
Frankfurt’s fighting spirit
James Rodríguez’s botched pass that led to the opener is but the last in a long catalog of individual mistakes that, coupled with the profligacy up front, tore up Bayern’s treble and double dreams.
Unlike Sven Ulreich’s howler and, to a lesser extent Rafinha’s blunder in the Champions League, this was not a gratuitous mistake. Rebić ran forward, pressed high and intelligently. He reached James just in time to intercept his passing attempt. It all unfolded from there.
Indeed, Frankfurt showed the fighting spirit that wins finals. They showed what Bayern did in 2013 after Borussia Dortmund were running them over for most of the first half at Wembley. What Real Madrid do season in and season out, in lieu of a serious sporting project.
This, people, is what Bayern have lacked all season. Not even Jupp Heynckes’ overhaul could completely eliminate what amounts to a truckload of complacency from the players.
If Niko Kovač can do with Bayern what he has done with Frankfurt, he cannot come soon enough.