Jupp Heynckes’ last game in charge of Bayern Munich ended in the shadow of his successor. Far from celebrating a double win, the 73-year-old was forced to discuss VAR controversy and defend his side's post-match actions.
A goal down with the last kick of the game fast approaching, Bayern Munich had to endure a wild ride of emotions in the dying minutes of a German Cup final for the ages.
Convinced they had earned a last-minute penalty, the Bundesliga champions were shocked when referee Felix Zwayer, having been prompted by the team in Cologne, waved their protests away despite calling for the use of VAR.
Kevin-Prince Boateng was the man in the hot seat following his attempts to clear a loose ball in the box.
“I caught [Javi] Martinez,” the Frankfurt midfielder admitted to Sky Sport Germany. “You can clearly see I caught him. After that it’s up to the referee. I’m always honest. We had a bit of luck.”
As if to rub salt in the wounds, after being denied a spot kick, Bayern’s subsequent corner was cleared, allowing Mijat Gacinovic to race clear to tap home Frankfurt’s third of the night.
After the final whistle, Zwayer was now under the spotlight. Controversial decisions have been a running theme in the final stages of a 2017/18 campaign that just a few weeks ago had Bayern fans dreaming of another Heynckes’ treble.
The players who braved the cameras were honest in their appraisal that their inability to convert chances was what cost them the game, but the frustration was clear to see.
“The last element of this mix of being unsuccessful is also the referee,” lamented Thomas Müller. “It was the same in Madrid as it was here. Today it’s hard to accept given that we have the use of VAR here in Germany.”
It seems fitting that VAR’s debut season which has been littered with controversial mishaps, miscommunication and loosely defined explanations, should find itself at the heart of a drama-riddled debate in the German Cup final.
Nevertheless, Bayern have also received criticism for their actions after the final whistle, with their frustration and disappointment seen as no excuse for not staying out on the field to see Frankfurt lift the trophy.
It’s a traditional show of respect that was neglected by the German record titleholders who all headed straight down the tunnel after receiving their runners’ up medals, but for Manuel Neuer and Tom Starke.
“That wasn’t a show of respect to the winners,” stated Sky expert Lothar Matthäus. “Normally you stand there and clap, that’s fair play. It wasn’t well organized. Someone needed to tell the players to come back out.”
Forced to defend his players’ action, Heynckes claimed it was a simple “misunderstanding” before congratulating his successor Niko Kovac and Eintracht Frankfurt on being “worthy cup winners”.
“I expected an official from Bayern or the DFB to tell us to wait until the cup had been handed over,“ said Heynckes, who offcially retired on Sunday. “If I’m honest I didn’t even think about it in that moment, otherwise I’d have told the players to stay out on the pitch.”
It was far from the fairytale ending that would have been befitting for one of the club’s legends.