Desperation hung heavy in the air as stoppage time approached. Cologne’s massive defense was visibly tiring and retreating, with attacking ambitions largely abandoned – but Bayern Munich still couldn’t open the lock. After seeing another convoluted effort by his striker fail, Joshua Kimmich decided to just smash the door with a 90th minute sledgehammer of an equaliser.
The attack, driven by frustration and technique, averted Bayern’s first defeat since September and defeat to Yann Sommer in his first Bayern match at the Allianz Arena. But not everything is right in Munich.
The Swiss goalkeeper looked solid on his debut in Friday’s 1-1 draw against RB Leipzig, but was an impeccable spectator as the relentless Ellyes Skhiri turned in an overtake at the back post to put Cologne ahead early on Tuesday night.
Nagelsmann complains about lack of ‘alertness’
It was the kind of moment that usually prompts a sustained and ferocious reaction from the champions. But instead, Julian Naglesmann’s side let the first half go adrift.
“We have not always given everything in terms of positioning, in terms of alertness,” the Bayern coach said afterwards. “And you just have to do that about 90. We had too many phases in both games [this and Friday’s 1-1 draw against RB Leipzig] where we didn’t always put everything in.”
Sommer, who was in goal for Borussia Mönchengladbach the only other time Bayern had been behind at half-time this season, needed to make 19 saves for the Colts to maintain a draw in that game. He didn’t have much to do on Tuesday. But in reality, neither did his counterpart Marvin Schwäbe, until Kimmich got involved. Jamal Musiala was a notch above his usual brilliance, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry were hooked at half time and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting coupled play efficiently enough but offered little threat in the back.
Cologne executes game plan
Just after a 7-1 win over Werder Bremen to resume their season, the early strike enabled Cologne to execute a familiar game plan. Steffen Baumgart’s side were resolute and eager to wait for a chance to unleash Florian Kainz on the left and bomb runners from midfield, with one such counterattack forcing Sommer to carve out a low cross on the left wing that Shkiri seemed ready.
Naglesmann’s changes had some impact, with Kingsley Coman more direct, dynamic and dangerous than Gnabry had been. But still Bayern worked. On the sidelines, Baumgart, dressed in a club polo shirt and his trademark flat cap in freezing temperatures, drove his team on; a curved, flattering presence with just a hint of wildness.
“You saw how Bayern increased the pressure. The fact that it came from such a shot is not even annoying, and it was not undeserved either,” said the Cologne coach after the game, praising his team’s effort without the ball. “In the end, I think the point is good, both for them and for our fighting performance. Bayern, I must say, did very well.”
Bayern misses Lewandowski
Nevertheless, it is only two points from two games and two goals for Bayern since the resumption of the Bundesliga. While that in itself may not ring too many alarm bells, this occurrence may. Choupo-Moting had excellent form ahead of the World Cup and the winter break, but his career suggests he won’t be able to replace Robert Lewandowski’s goals in the long run. With Gnabry, Coman and Leroy Sane all prone to ups and downs in form, there may be more weight on the 19-year-old Musiala than Nagelsmann would like.
He can wear it most of the time. But he too was substituted in the second half by Thomas Müller, who recently admitted to being “minute hungry”. The bluntness of this display could mean he gets more than the 22 he got on Tuesday when Bayern hosted third-placed Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
A victory for the visitors would put them three points off the top, while RB Leipzig are even closer to the Bavarians after a 6-1 defeat to a Schalke side who look doomed earlier in the evening.
The same clearly cannot be said of Bayern, with Nagelsmann noting their improvement: “It’s important when you play a bad first half to play a good second,” he said. “The second half we were very good, very committed, very emotional. . Overall we missed that cutting edge.”
Rumbling of discontent
But it’s not just four lost points in two games. The dismissal of goalkeeper coach and Manuel Neuer confidant Toni Tapalovic earlier this week did not go down well with the injured goalkeeper. Nagelsmann said things were not always “as they should be” under Tapalovic’s watch.
Moreover, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic criticized Gnabry’s recent trip to a fashion show in Paris: “That’s amateurish. It doesn’t suit Bayern Munich. It’s important to rest on a day off,” he said. Clearly, there are rumblings of discontent.
Thanks to Kimmich, they are just that for now. Bayern have handled much worse without relinquishing their supremacy in the Bundesliga. He, and they, will not give up anything without a fight.