Bayern Munich’s decline laid bare by Liverpool
MUNICH (AP) — Trailing against Liverpool and desperate for goals as time wound down, Bayern Munich came up empty.
Sure, the team still has a chance to win both the Bundesliga and the German Cup, but Wednesday’s 3-1 loss in the Champions League showed that Bayern is a club in decline.
“It was very difficult because I was alone sometimes. I didn’t have help and I couldn’t do something,” Bayern forward Robert Lewandowski told Norwegian broadcaster Viasport. “If you are alone against two three players, good players, it is very difficult to play.”
Bayern was playing without the injured Arjen Robben and the suspended pair of Thomas Mueller and Joshua Kimmich. Still, the sting of failing to progress to the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in eight years will be felt for some time.
“We didn’t risk so much,” said Lewandowski, Bayern’s main scoring threat. “We were playing at home but that’s not our game and I think that’s why Liverpool beat us.”
Kingsley Coman came on as a substitute midway through the second half and caused some trouble for Liverpool’s defense. Leon Goretzka then replaced Javi Martinez and, with about 11 minutes to go, Renato Sanches came on for James Rodriguez.
Nothing, however, helped provide the goals.
Another sign of decline came from the other end of the field. Manuel Neuer, at one time considered to be the top goalkeeper in the world, has not been at his best since returning from a foot injury. He rushed out of goal to let Sadio Mane score Liverpool’s first.
Bayern equalized when Liverpool defender Joel Matip scored an own-goal, but Virgil van Dijk made it 2-1 and Mane then struck again.
Three years ago, Bayern recovered from a two-goal deficit at halftime to beat Juventus 4-2 at the same stage of the competition. They needed more of those goals on Wednesday, but never got them.
“We lacked the courage to cause problems for the opponents’ defense,” Bayern defender Mats Hummels said. “It wasn’t a bitter exit like in the past years (to Real Madrid). This time we deserved to go out.”
In the Bundesliga, where Bayern has overturned a nine-point deficit to move ahead of Borussia Dortmund on goal difference, the team has scored 18 goals in its last five games. But much of its rise to the top of the league has come as a result of Dortmund’s lack of efficiency.
And despite the prospect of two titles, Bayern’s thoughts are already turning to next season. The club is reportedly interested in 23-year-old Lille forward Nicolas Pepe, who has 17 goals in the French league this season, while Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi and Atletico Madrid’s Lucas Hernandez remain targets.
Canadian youngster Alphonso Davies completed his transfer from the Vancouver Whitecaps in January, and Bayern has already signed World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard from league rival Stuttgart for next season.
More new signings are expected, but the new arrivals will have little time to adjust to get Bayern back to where it wants to be.