Champions League: Philippe Coutinho finding his feet as Bayern defeat Red Star | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 18.09.2019
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Champions League: Philippe Coutinho finding his feet as Bayern defeat Red Star

It wasn’t a vintage performance from Philippe Coutinho as Bayern Munich saw off Red Star Belgrade in their Champions League opener, but the Brazilian showed moments of magic to suggest his best is on its way.

Attacking footballers are judged on goals and assists, the stats that can be counted and collected.

Looking back on Bayern Munich's 3-0 win over Red Star, fans will immediately notice that Philippe Coutinho didn't contribute to the score sheet but that his replacement, Thomas Müller, did.

Conclusions might be made that the Brazilian struggled to prove he is deserving of a spot in Niko Kovac's starting line-up on a regular basis, and that his slump in form looks set to continue.

The outlying stats, however, tell a slightly different story.

Coutinho had 102 touches, made two key passes, completed four dribbles and fired six shots in his 83 minutes. His first half was far better than the second, where both he and Bayern were too passive, but the creativity and inventiveness he showcased in the first 45 minutes was special.

Eye-catching opening

Centimeters denied Coutinho from adding a goal to an impressive first 45 minutes. A fierce half-volley from range went just over the crossbar and then a delightful backheel flick from a Kingsley Coman cross was ruled out for offside. Coutinho instigated both attacks with either a trademark slide-rule pass or a sharp turn and burst of speed.

The Brazilian's freedom to roam in the number 10 role also allowed him to produce a number of fancy flicks and instinctive shifts in direction that promise to add another dimension to Bayern's attack. He possesses an x-factor that no other Bayern midfielder boasts, one that has been noticeably absent in Bayern's midfield in recent years.

High expectations

This wasn't a perfect performance from Coutinho. In truth Bayern's overall performance was littered with flat passages of play and wastefulness in front of goal.

But for a player that has arrived at Bayern on high wages and with a huge reported option-to-buy clause, perfection is what's expected. There's no denying he is a luxury player, one that Kovac must accommodate by playing two holding midfielders — Corentin Tolisso and Thiago on this occasion — and as a result Coutinho must prove a worthy gambit.

Tonight, Coutinho took a step closer to turning his flair into tangible numbers. Now Kovac must find a way to make sure he can unlock his Brazilian jewel's full potential.

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