Schalke 2-0 Bayern: Bayern dominate but lose
A scoreline that barely makes sense given the away side’s dominance for the majority of the game.
Felix Magath lined up with a lopsided and frankly disorganised 4-4-2 / 4-4-2 diamond shape. Jermaine Jones and Jefferson Farfan were dropped after last week’s 5-0 defeat to Kaiserslautern. Jose Jurado came in as a playmaker drifting to the left, and Ivan Rakitic played on the left of the centre of midfield.
Louis van Gaal stuck with a 4-2-3-1. Antoliy Tymoshchuk played at centre-back despite Martin Demichelis and Daniel van Buyten being fit enough for the squad. Bastian Schweinsteiger was the attacking central midfielder, with Toni Kroos deeper.
The first half was almost all Bayern. Though the game started reasonably slowly with neither team taking control, it was the away side who created the majority of chances.
The main reason for this was the lack of structure to Schalke’s midfield. Having switched between a 4-4-2 and a 4-4-2 diamond so far this season, it wasn’t immediately clear what this shape was supposed to be.
Jurado was playing as the main creative midfielder but also seemed to have a responsibility to fill in on the left of midfield when Schalke lost the ball. On other occasions, Bayern attacked directly down that side and Jurado was too high up the pitch, meaning Rakitic had to come across to the left, and then Bayern had a numerical advantage in midfield.
It was on the counter-attack where Bayern were most dangerous, however. Schalke tried to press in midfield to break up Bayern’s passing, and this worked well when one of the forwards dropped in and picked up Mark van Bommel. When that didn’t occur, however, Schalke’s pressing in the centre of midfield meant Bayern could use their 3 v 2 advantage and exploit the huge space ‘in the hole’ as Schalke’s midfielders came forward.
Consequently, they created many chances. The best opportunity was on the break when Schweinsteiger crossed for Mario Gomez six yards out, but he somehow sidefooted wide of the post. Other times, their shots were more accurate, but Manuel Neuer was having a superb game.
The one criticism of Bayern would be that they were slightly too reliant on counter-attacks to create chances. Considering how sloppy Schalke were on their left side, it was surprising that Philip Lahm didn’t push forward more – maybe he was concerned with Jurado’s movement, but with Thomas Muller having a decent game, Bayern could have done more.
Schalke did little to suggest they were about to take the lead. The one clear benefit of their system was that they were playing two forwards and therefore direct balls forward was always an option, especially with the unfamiliar Bayern centre-back pairing. It was a long hoof forward from Neuer that turned into a crucial attack, with Raul battling on the left to win possession, and eventually the ball rebouded to Jurado, who smashed the ball in off the post.
Whilst creating the goal, Raul picked up an injury to his face that forced him to leave the action. This worked out brilliantly for Schalke, because Magath was able to bring on Farfan, switch Edu to the left, and go 4-4-1-1 with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar alone upfront. Suddenly, they were much more solid defensively, and it meant that Magath was able to sacrifice Raul (who hadn’t done much in the rest of the game) without angering the Spaniard by taking him off for tactical reasons.
If the first goal flattered Schalke, the second was bordering on being unreasonable. Up after a set-piece, Benedikt Hoewedes converted a rebound from his own header after a cross from Peer Kluge.
Schalke see it out
Schalke defended well after the second goal, as Magath completely shut up shop. He removed Edu and Jurado, his two most creative midfielders, and brought on two defenders in Christian Pander and Kyriakos Papadopoulos and instructing his side to sit back inside their own half of the pitch, with only Huntelaar providing any real attacking threat.
Bayern, having relied upon counter-attacking early on, quickly faded when Schalke dropped deep. The response from van Gaal was to go direct – Schweinsteiger made way for Daniel van Buyen who played as an emergency centre-forward – but Schalke were well-stocked in defence and had few problems.
Surely the most ‘undeserved’ win of the season so far, in terms of the result not reflecting the balance of play. Bayern were by far the better side at 0-0, had 68% of possession, and forced Neuer into numerous saves. This was not a deliberate ’sit back and play on the break’ display from Schalke, they simply were outplayed and were rather fortunate to still be in the game in the second half. Still, Bayern rarely keep clean sheets away from home, and poor defending contributed to both goals.