Football

Champions League: Defensive worries remain for Bayern Munich despite 90th-minute equalizer at Salzburg

Bayern Munich denied Red Bull Salzburg what would have been an historic victory in their UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg tie on Wednesday with a late equalizer which barely papers over the cracks exhibited by the German giants at present.

Kingsley Coman was teed up by Thomas Muller as time was ticking down at Red Bull Arena and the France international leveled after Chukwubuike Adamu had given the Austrian hosts a dream start with a 21st minute opener from a Brenden Aaronson assist.

Ultimately, Julian Nagelsmann’s side denied Matthias Jaissle’s men what would have been an impressive victory but in many ways, this feels like another defeat for Bayern after their surprise Bundesliga reverse against VfL Bochum over the weekend.

For the fourth consecutive match, the Bavarians conceded at least once and across those four mainly domestic fixtures they have shipped a total of eight which even excluding Bochum’s incredible quadruple is still one goal per game.

Salzburg’s German sister club RB Leipzig put two past Bayern at Allianz Arena while Hertha Berlin also tallied against the champions and the only team to fail to do so in 2022 so far is 1 FC Koln who were thumped 4-0 in early January after a 2-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach.

Many will point to Manuel Neuer’s absence between the sticks through injury as a reason for this sudden shakiness at the back, but the rot had already started to set in before poor Sven Ulreich had five stuck past him across two games given that Neuer was beaten three times in as many matches.

Admittedly, Ulreich was on the pitch against Gladbach, but it would be harsh to blame the 33-year-old for the team’s collective defensive deficiencies when the likes of Benjamin Pavard, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez and even summer signing Dayot Upamecano have all been present.

Two of the fixtures which have seen Bayern allow their opponents to score have finished in victory for Nagelsmann and his players thanks to their lethal Robert Lewandowski-led attack which has scored 10 times in their last four games while conceding those eight goals. The Polish superstar was powerless in Austria, though, without a single shot.

Regardless of potentially just the one off night for the reliable Lewandowski, 10 goals conceded across six games in all competitions is extremely unlike the Bundesliga titleholders who also crashed out of the DFB Pokal after a thumping 5-0 defeat away at Gladbach towards the end of October.

In fact, rewind to late 2021 and SL Benfica, FC Augsburg and Borussia Dortmund all scored more than once against Bayern while SC Freiburg, Dynamo Kyiv and Mainz 05 also spoiled clean sheets for the German juggernaut.

Something is clearly not working for the Bavarians right now and while it might not be as simple as Neuer’s absence, Sule’s contract situation and now confirmed departure, or the often fully French three-man backline, it is a combination of those things and a few more.

Nagelsmann was always going to need time to stamp his mark on this Bayern side, especially as he oversees a generational change many younger faces coming in to push out the remaining veterans, but the Allianz Arena hierarchy will not have expected it to cost them in more than one piece of silverware.

The team are relatively comfortable at present with a six-point cushion over Dortmund in the German topflight but that will not excuse a shock UCL exit or continued charity from the defense towards each opponent they face.

Salzburg pulling off this sort of result should come as no surprise given their recent continental development but the fact that Bayern could still be their next victims should be of minimal shock too given their deterioration at the back this campaign.

Nagelsmann and his team have work on if they are to avoid crashing out to Salzburg at home which would leave them with only the Bundesliga as the scantest of consolation titles and even that cannot be considered won given that Bayern still need to face Dortmund once more this term.



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