Bayern 2-3 Inter: Pandev snatches the win
Inter progress on away goals after Goran Pandev’s late winner.
Louis van Gaal changed his two centre-backs from the first game, but it was a familiar 4-2-3-1 for Bayern.
Having started with a Christmas tree shape in the first leg, Leonardo switched to more of a 4-2-3-1ish shape here. Wesley Sneijder was used in a wide-left role, Goran Pandev started from the right but sometimes became a second striker, and Dejan Stankovic linked the holding midfielders and the attackers.
Neither side conclusively won the tactical battle – both sides had chances, and Bayern probably should have wrapped up the game in an excellent 20 minute spell either side of half time. Inter were far better than in the first leg, however, particularly in terms of ball retention.
Their formation was a major reason for the improvement. In the first game, Stankovic and Sneidjer played just behind Samuel Eto’o, but struggled to receive passes from the three holding players – Inter were a broken team. Here, with Stankovic playing the link role, Inter worked the ball forward gradually. With Sneijder and Pandev both coming into the centre of the pitch, the attackers combined nicely, and some quick passing created Eto’o’s early goal.
Inter were also much improved without the ball. In the first leg, Sneijder and Stankovic usually closed down the Bayern holders, which left Philipp Lahm and Danijel Pranjic free to scamper down the touchlines and launch attacks from the flanks. Here, Sneidjer and Pandev pressured both the holders and the full-backs in turn, and the presence of Stankovic higher up the pitch mean he could also move towards Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Against Thomas Muller, Inter had 2 v 1, rather than the unnecessary 3 v 1 in the first leg. Thiago Motta tracked him, and Esteban Cambiasso played slightly further forward, to either side. Upfront, Eto’o’s pace caused Bayern to defend deeper than usual, but when Inter didn’t have possession, the Cameroon striker often dropped off and moved towards Luis Gustavo.
Bayern take command
Bayern took a while to settle down into their passing rhythm, but eventually started to put together some excellent attacks. Their main strategy was to get the ball wide to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, who both got the better of their respective full-backs. The opening goal was amazingly similar to Mario Gomez’s winner in the first leg – Robben came inside, Julio Cesar spilled the shot, and Gomez turned in the rebound. Again, Inter didn’t defend well enough against Robben’s favourite movement (to come inside and shoot) – in particular, Andrea Rannochia was doubling up on the outside rather than the inside for the goal.
Robben was the catalyst for many Bayern attacks. He wandered away from his left-sided position without the ball, and moved into the centre of the pitch where he combined well with Ribery. Bayern had further chances, many from direct attacks rather than their usual possession play – Ribery missed a one-on-one with Julio Cesar, but Muller scored a second to make it 3-1 on aggregate.
After some fierce Bayern pressure, Inter increasingly dominated midway through the second period. Having largely sat back early on, they forced the issue more after the break – Motta and Cambiasso played higher up the pitch, and when this threatened to leave a huge space between the lines, the defence responded in turn.
Substitutions played a big part. Stankovic (seemingly injured) departed for Coutinho, who played on the left. Sneijder went into the centre of the pitch – and from that position, scored the equaliser. Robben’s departure robbed Bayern of pace on the break, which might have been vital as Inter’s defence played increasingly high up the pitch.
It was hard to tell what Bayern’s strategy was late in the game. Were they trying to play on the break and get another goal, trying to keep possession and kill the game, or sitting back and letting Inter have the ball, keeping their defensive shape? Whichever it was, it didn’t work very well.
Inter should be praised for their commitment to passing football, however. They continued to get the ball to Sneijder and Coutinho, and although it’s hard to say a goal was coming, they had persistent pressure in the final twenty minutes – and with Bayern’s weakness at the back, it was likely Inter would get one last chance. It fell to Pandev, who finished coolly to send the defending champions through.
Bayern should have won the game with their chances midway through the game. “Yet again, we’ve brought it on ourselves, and not for the first time this season”, van Gaal said. “We’ve learned nothing from our mistakes, and that’s a shame. We created so many chances, but we failed to put them away. We didn’t keep it as tight in the second half.”
Leonardo focused on his side’s mental strength. “This game cannot be explained, only experienced”, he said. We won and it was a victory all from the heart. We organised well, scoring after three minutes, but there was a period when everything went Bayern’s way and we lost our balance…tonight was all about heart.”
Tactically, this wasn’t a resounding win for Leonardo – but the change in strategy was a huge improvement from the first leg, so he deserves some credit.Bayern 2-3 Inter: Pandev snatches the win