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All’s well – until the 87th minute

Hoffenheim faced a big surprise against Manchester City. Then a momentous mistake happened.

Déja-Vu: Did Pep Guardiola think about 22 August 2015 shortly after the start of the game? Back then, as coach of FC Bayern, his team was already 0-1 behind in Hoffenheim after only a few seconds. More than three years later, the same fate befell him. This time as coach of Manchester City. But perhaps he also remembered the outcome of the match back then. The Munich team won thanks to a late goal from Robert Lewandowski. History was to repeat itself.

Result: Manchester City won at 1899 Hoffenheim 2:1 (1:1). The decisive goal by David Silva was scored a few minutes before the final whistle. Click here for the match report.

Unequal duel: Many spectators had expected a much clearer result. Between the coaches of both teams, Pep Guardiola and Julian Nagelsmann, lie 16 years, 26 titles and 356 compulsory games. TSG Hoffenheim received the Premier League leaders and reigning champions in their first Champions League home game in the club’s history. The club, which currently has the second most expensive squad in the world (1.06 billion euros, source: transfermarkt.de). The contrasts could not have been bigger before the kick-off. The favourite was under pressure.

The starting position: On the first matchday of Group F, the Citizens – one of the title contenders in the premier class – surprisingly lost to Olympique Lyon (1:2). Hoffenheim, on the other hand, scored in Ukraine with Schachtar Donezk (2:2). An advantage for the TSG?

First half: It looked that way for a long time. The Nagelsmann eleven took the lead after 44 seconds. Ishak Belfodil scored his first Champions League goal after the offside trap of the visitors failed (1st minute). By the way, it was the second fastest goal for an English team in the premier class – Rome’s Stephan El Shaarawy was seven seconds faster against Chelsea a year ago. Sergio Agüero’s equaliser was followed by a pressure phase for the visitors. Thanks to a strong goalkeeper, the draw remained until the break: Oliver Baumann saved first against Raheem Sterling (15th) and later against Agüero (35th).

Sole entertainer: When Agüero moved from Atlético to Manchester City in 2011, he was a real bargain in terms of today’s transfer sums. The little Argentinian, who stands in the shadow of Lionel Messi in his home country, cost 40 million euros. Agüero’s record is impressive: he scored 207 goals across competitions and has long been the club’s most successful attacker. Second place went to Yaya Touré with 79 goals.

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Worries in Hoffenheim: Julian Nagelsmann does not tend to complain. Not even about the tense personnel situation. But in the run-up to the match he admitted that there had already been “more pleasant moments”. With Kevin Vogt, Benjamin Hübner, Havard Nordtveit, Kasim Adams, Ermin Bicakcic, Dennis Geiger, Lukas Rupp and Nadiem Amiri, the TSG lacked eight potential regulars.

Second half: But even in the second half, Hoffenheimer’s players with weak substitutes held up well for a long time. City owned up to 70 percent of the ball and was looking for the gap. In the 73rd minute Silva sent the fast Leroy Sané into the penalty area. TSG goalkeeper Baumann fouled the German international, but the impartial denied him a penalty. Nevertheless, there was no happy ending.

Bad luck of the game: Nagelsmann bet on the still unknown Stefan Posch in the central defense. The 21-year-old played solidly and kept City’s strong offensive together with his defensive colleagues as well as possible away from his own goal. Up to the 87th minute: Then Posch made the decisive mistake when he put the ball after a cross with the chest accidentally into the barrel of Silva. The experienced Spaniard performed ice cold.

What happens next? Manchester City can breathe a sigh of relief. With the victory, the Guardiola eleven have now arrived in the current Champions League season. Hoffenheim, on the other hand, will have a hard time now, the point against Donezk was probably too low. In order to have a realistic chance of reaching the round of 16, TSG should get at least four points from their upcoming matches against Lyon. In playing Costa Bingo, you don’t need to deposit cash, you can play whenever you want.

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In shock rigor

Draw at home against Ajax, a total of three games without a win in a row: The Bavarians are alarmed and look in vain for explanations for the once again desolate performance. Coach Niko Kovac also seems perplexed.

And then Louis van Gaal also made his appearance. The man who was Bayern coach from 2009 to 2011 and had problems with Uli Hoeneß again and again during this time. Van Gaal was asked how his reunion with the Bavarian President had been on the way out of the stadium. “Very warm, I hugged him,” said the 67-year-old with a smile and pushed afterwards: “The fact that we couldn’t be together at the time was good, that’s life.”

Before that, Hoeneß had sneaked through the cabin wing with a petrified face. However, this was less due to the encounter with the Dutchman van Gaal, who can be quite complicated in his dealings due to his enormous self-confidence. No, the club boss could get over this meeting. What Hoeneß could not bear was the desolate performance of FC Bayern on this dreary Tuesday evening.

“A happy draw”

The only good thing about the 1-1 draw against Ajax Amsterdam was that the Munich team had not lost the game and had saved at least one point. “A lucky draw”, Joshua Kimmich said later, and coach Niko Kovac also spoke of a “won point”.

Otherwise there was helplessness, even bewilderment. Almost in a state of shock, the players and those in charge were looking for explanations. In vain. The Bavarians don’t know themselves any more. They have become strangers to each other.

Joshua Kimmich Honours

Club
Bayern Munich

  • Bundesliga: 2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18
  • DFB-Pokal: 2015–16
  • DFL-Supercup: 2016, 2017, 2018

International
Germany

  • UEFA European Under-19 Championship: 2014
  • FIFA Confederations Cup: 2017

Individual

  • UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament: 2016
  • UEFA Champions League Breakthrough XI: 2016
  • Germany national team Player of the Year: 2017
  • UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season: 2017–18
  • FIFA FIFPro World XI 3rd team: 2018

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Ten days earlier, the German record champion had still won confidently on Schalke. 2:0, the seventh victory in the seventh compulsory game, the Bavarians could hardly run before strength any more. In comparison, they are limping now. After the 1:1 against Augsburg, the 0:2 in Berlin and now the failed home debut in the Champions League, the alarm mood is gradually coming up in Munich.

Even the players themselves did not understand why they had given away the match after the header goal by Mats Hummels after four minutes. There were times when such an early lead was the decision. The FCB then played the game to a loose end: 3:0, 4:0, a victory in the slow gait. It is all the more inexplicable that the team suddenly became shaky against Ajax and lost its dominance after 15 minutes.

The equalizer was foreseeable

“We had everything under control”, Captain Manuel Neuer said later, “and then we let Ajax play all at once”. Nothing worked anymore. Especially the defensive chain of four seemed unsettled. Coordination problems and position mistakes led to the foreseeable equalisation after 22 minutes by Noussair Mazraoui. Also in the build-up worked little, especially the passes of Jérôme Boateng, whose two mistakes on Friday had contributed to the 0:2 in Berlin, arrived only rarely. And also midfield and storm were indisposed until not present. “We had few ideas,” said Kimmich, “and when we had chances, they came out of nowhere.”

It was also worrying that the Munich game after the break was just as haphazard as before. There was no sign of a jerk that went through the team in the cabin. “You talk about things you can do better in the half-time,” Arjen Robben said angrily. “And then we continue to play just as well. To be more knowledgeable about Spinit Casino, read them here.

In the end, the host could be happy that Donny van de Beek missed the goal free-standing (72.). And that Neuer had a free kick from Lasse Schöne in injury time to the crossbar. “We slipped into this situation creepingly,” said Thomas Müller, “now we have to get out of there very quickly.”

Kovac: “Maybe everything was a bit too easy”.

And what’s Niko Kovac’s cut? The coach seemed rather helpless: “Maybe everything was a bit too easy,” he said in retrospect of the first seven games. “That’s not how I imagined it. I know what the hour has brought.” The new Bayern coach must at least ask himself whether he didn’t exaggerate the rotation. Not a single time has the same starting eleven been on the pitch in two consecutive games. He also repositioned the defence every time.

Experts like Jürgen Kohler had already voiced criticism on the weekend. “It’s too much rotation for me,” said the 1990 world champion, “especially in a defensive alliance, the positions have to be attuned to each other, you have to tune in with the other. The time for experiments should be over for Kovac. Now he is facing his first really tough test in Munich: he has to give the players security and faith back. Just a hint of van Gaal’s own self-confidence, and the Bavarians would be unbeatable again.

On Saturday Gladbach comes to Munich. The last game before the international break is a very important one for the Bavarians. And for Kovac. It’s still just rumbling, nobody is yet openly talking about a crisis in Munich. But if the Bavarians don’t win on Saturday either, things will get restless.

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