Four days before a top-of-the-table clash with Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich were given a scare by second-division Heidenheim. A rollercoaster cup tie exposed Bayern's weaknesses again but they still found a way.
Two goals for Robert Lewandowski, one for Thomas Müller assisted by Lewandowski, and Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry also on the scoresheet – a straight forward day at the office as Bayern prepare for the visit of Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Not quite. Bayern might have scored five but they also conceded four against second-division Heidenheim in a cup game that became an instant classic. An overwhelming favorite handicapped by a controversial red card, a raucous following of 10,000 away fans and an underdog with nothing to lose but everything to gain.
You literally can't play for a point in a cup quarterfinal and so, despite falling behind early on, Heidenheim, sixth in the second division, went for it. By the break, they were ahead and after falling another two goals behind in the second half, they came back again. They hit the bar in the first half too, and perhaps should have gone 5-4 ahead themselves moments before Lewandowski's winner from the spot.
Granted, Heidenheim played with an extra man for 75 minutes but make no mistake, this was a courageous, attacking, skillful performance from Frank Schmidt's team which exposed weaknesses Bayern have shown time and time again this season.
With Lewandowski starting on the bench and Franck Ribery sacrificed after Niklas Süle's red card, a Bayern front three featuring Thomas Müller, James and Serge Gnabry initially lacked penetration. A combative Heidenheim side caused Bayern constant problems on the break, leaving their center-backs frequently exposed as a visibly frustrated Joshua Kimmich found himself stranded up-field.
Conclusions hard to make
If Lucien Favre was watching, he wouldn't have learned much he didn't know before. Borussia Dortmund have already scored three against Bayern this season, as have Borussia Mönchengladbach, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Ajax, Bayer Leverkusen and Liverpool. Tonight, Heidenheim went one better.
But Bayern still found a way, with ten men, and for that, despite all the problems, they deserve credit. "Just because I don't always change our system, doesn't mean I can't," Niko Kovac said this week. Changes were necessary here and Kovac made them, bringing on Kingsley Coman and Lewandowski for Rafinha and James.
For parts of this game, Bayern looked like more like Bayern. Turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead in 15 minutes despite being a man down felt very Bayern Munich. Conceding two goals in three minutes after that was however, also typical of Bayern this season under Kovac.
"It absolutely annoyed me that we weren't able to manage our 4-2 lead and got ourselves into difficulties," said Kovac. "It was a wild, open game – the sort of game I don't really like."
Drawing too many conclusions from a wild cup game is difficult. Fortunately for Kovac, Saturday's game is unlikely to be so open given that Borussia Dortmund may be more willing to settle for a draw having already opened up a two-point lead. But Bayern's head coach will know that his side cannot afford those familiar errors to reoccur.
This cup spectacle benefited from it, but Bayern won't be able to rely on superior individual quality if a similarly wild game unfolds on Saturday.