Lewa and the Bundesliga are back with a bang

After what felt like an eternity, the Bundesliga gods have smiled upon us and have given us a Friday match-up between defending champions Bayern München and 10th place Hamburger SV. Last season, this did not go super well for HSV, with the Bavarians putting up an 8 spot on them.

Bayern, of course have been tearing up the league with a masterful defense featuring the likes of the ever versatile David Alaba and Jerome Boateng (both capable of shifting to outside back, or dropping in as the lone CB) protecting Manuel Neuer only conceding 8 times. I won’t bore you with praise for the excellent-passing Bayern midfield marshalled by Xabi Alonso, Thiago and Arturo Vidal, or the lethal duo of Lewandowski and Müller who have thrived on the masterful wing play of Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman.

On to HSV. Hamburg were perfectly average, ranking close to 10th in most metrics, with their tendency to tackle and foul the lone standout measure (3rd and 2nd in the league). The only other note of significance is that they have already had 5 games where they allowed 20+ deep completions  (per Statsbomb) – the 4th worst mark behind the mess that Hannover and Hoffenheim’s defenses have been.

They are also challenged offensively, due to poor possession (49% overall), especially in the opponent half, registering just 8 passes 4 shots in 17 games in what soccer statistician Michael Caley has dubbed the “danger zone – which is zones 1-3, the close and central areas of the box”


This is never more evident than in the case of their leading scorerPierre-Michel Lasogga, whose rugged  physical play  has terrorized defenders (just ask Wolfsburg’s Dante, or Havard Nortveidt of Gladbach) and has resulted in scoring 6 goals – (2 penalties, 1 excellent header from a corner, 1 tap-in, a cheeky finish against Stuttgart and the aforementioned goal from pressing the Gladbach defense) while creating at least 3 others.

Their standout player in midfield has been the ever underappreciated former Schalke and Tottenham player “Lucky” Lewis Holtby (ranked 32 among all players according to Whoscored.com). The former German international looks to have finally found a home in Hamburg, orchestrating HSV’s midfield, evidenced by his 25 key passes that put him ahead of Yunus Malli, Max Arnold or Marco Reus. So, while Holtby has been outstanding, it is never a great sign for any team, when their attacking midfielders Nicolai Müller, free kick taker  and deflection master Michael Gregoritsch and Ivo Ilicevic have (as exemplified wonderfuly in this video) combined  for 8 goals and 5 assists in 17 games- otherwise known as a “decent half” for the Lewa-Thomas Müller duo.

The defense, which has conceded 13 goals in the last two meetings against Bayern, after giving up 5 in the August season opener, has been decent since, allowing 18 goals in 16 matches. The veteran center-back duo of Johann Djorou (ranked 12th among defenders on Squawka) and Emir Spahic who could not deal with Bayern’s pace in their first meeting have recovered, while left back Matthias Ostrzolek, the patient zero of the Douglas Costa epidemic that overtook the Bundesliga and European soccer is still in recovery, ranking just 67th out of 80 qualified defenders. Rene Adler’s 13th ranking is perfectly in line with HSV’s Hinrunde of mediocrity.

The Lewandowski show saves Bayern


57,000 came to Volksparkstadion in the hopes of avoiding an embarrassing beatdown a la last season and HSV looked ready to please those fans with a favorable result.

Hamburg were without veteran security guard beater defender Emir Spahic, who was nursing an abdominal injury, Cleber was his replacement. HSV – started 4-2-3-1, with Hunt, Ilicevic and Nico Müller behind Lasogga.

There were two surprises for Bayern’s XI: the inclusion of Holger Badstuber, who has missed almost 200 games in 5 years, must have been a welcome sight for FCB fans, while Kingsley Coman got the nod ahead of Arjen Robben, with Pep Guardiola preferring Thiago to Arturo Vidal.  FCB -went with a  4-1-4-1, that often changed to a 3-4-1-2, or a 3-5-2, with Philipp Lahm playing a CDM role behind Alonso and Boateng pushing out to the right, with Badstuber in the middle and Alaba on the left.

11 minutes in, Aaron Hunt had the first notable moment, a long-range effort that forced a comfortable save from Neuer.

Bayern had 69% of the ball after the first 15 minutes, but it was Douglas Costa who left Matthias Ostrzolek in the dust with his first touch on 19 minutes, the left back was only able to bring him down for a yellow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NfmD5AJs1o

21minutes- Diekmeier, he of 147 games without scoring, almost opened his account after a brilliant run that culminated in a shot just off the mark.

32 minutes -Gojko Kacar tackled Kingsley Coman approximately 10 minutes after the ball was gone for a super cynical yellow.

36 minutes – after a brilliant long ball by Xabi Alonso, keeper Rene Adler brought down Thomas Müller after he had fired his shot wide and Robert Lewandowski made no mistake from the penalty spot. The Polish striker had passed Ailton on the all time Bundesliga scoring list with his 107th goal.

At halftime

4 yellows for HSV – while Bayern had 77% possession and 89% accuracy in a heated first half, that saw mild-mannered Philip Lahm pick up his 2nd yellow card of the season for a nasty foul.


Alonso taking a corner (thanks to Attila Bógyi of http://wegotgame.blog.hu/ for the picture)

In the second half it was Coman, the liveliest of the Bavarians,that continued tormenting HSV as he had switched sides with Costa, as Hamburg could not deal with his speed.

53 minutes in, as if Lasogga and Hamburg just wanted to prove me right, scoring from a free kick, which later is credited to Aaron Hunt  Xabi Alonso as an own goal for 1-1. Not sure, what Xabi Alonso was doing, other than holding on to the HSV forward’s jersey for dear life. Hamburg were growing stronger and Boateng’s had to be substituted for Javi Martinez in what looked like a potentially serious muscle injury. Aaron Hunt and Nico Müller were desperate to prove my pre-match prediction wrong, as both of them had 2 key passes.

In the 61st minute Lewandowski just stayed onside, as he redirected a Thomas Müller shot to make it 2-1. Bayern were looking to finish off the game, as David Alaba cracked the post on 66 minutes, beating Adler with a dipping shot.  Vidal came on for Müller in the 68th minute, but it was Douglas Costa that was not able to finish, after the umpteenth run by Coman on the right side, as the Brazilian’s effort ended up going back to the Frenchman. Hamburg goalkeeper Rene Adler made a great reflex save with his head (!) on Thiago’s shot, after Vidal’s first contribution to the match.Arjen Robben also got into the action replacing Douglas Costa, who aside from that magical touch looked rusty and hesitant with the ball.

HSV brought on Latvian striker Artjoms Rudnevs for Lasogga for the last 15 minutes.Rudnevs’ pace was causing some trouble for the Bayern backline, and HSV got a big chance with a 83rd minute free kick that Gregoritsch was unable to take advantage of, as the Austrian blasted the ball into the wall twice.

In the end, Bayern had a few nervous moments, but Gregoritsch’s 92nd minute free kick sailed past Neuer and the champions, thanks to the magic of Lewandowski were able to hang on for a 2-1 victory.

Despite outshooting HSV 20 to 8 and winning the possession battle 66 to 34, Coman and Lewandowski were the only two outstanding players for the Bavarians, as HSV were somewhat unlucky not to hang on to one of the points. Bayern fans can leave this game with a few mixed feelings, as Badstuber’s strong comeback (winning 9 aerial challenges) was mitigated by what looked like a serious injury to Boateng. Lewandowski is now on 17 goals, just 1 behind Aubameyang, but Thomas Müller has had better games. Kingsley Coman was a constant menace on the wings, but Douglas Costa appeared indecisive. Xabi Alonso, who had an excellent game with 96 touches and 4 key passes (including the great long ball to Thomas Müller for the 1st goal) was at fault for the Hamburg equalizer. In the end, it’s these kind of games that prove Bayern are a class above the league, as I’m not sure a lesser side would have been able to get all 3 points.


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