Drama, controversy and questionable calls as Bayern Munich fluff their lines | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 28.04.2019
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Drama, controversy and questionable calls as Bayern Munich fluff their lines

This was supposed to be the game that saw Bayern Munich move to the edge of glory. Instead, they had to settle for a point in Nuremberg after a pulsating contest - but it could have been much worse for the champions.

A point gained or two points dropped? Bayern Munich will be disappointed they didn't make Borussia Dortmund pay for their Revierderby defeat on Saturday, but under the circumstances of this extraordinary game in Nuremberg, Niko Kovac will be relieved that further damage wasn't inflicted.

Before all the late drama, there was a curious incident involving James Rodriguez, with the Colombian withdrawn 16 minutes after coming on as a second half substitute himself. Given that it was moments after hitting the bar from a free-kick and after he had injected some creativity to a Bayern attack short on inspiration, it seemed a bizarre change to make.

The fact that Hasan Salihamidzic was in close proximity led to suggestions that Bayern's sporting director was calling the shots, but Kovac insisted in his post-match comments that Rodriguez was replaced by the young Canadian Alphonso Davies because of a calf complaint. The role of the Spanish-speaking Salihamidzic was merely as an interpreter, Kovac claimed.

Fußball Bundesliga 1 FC Nürnberg vs Bayern München Auswechslung James Rodriguez (Imago Images/J. Huebner)

James Rodriguez was replaced 16 minutes after coming on, with a calf injury the reason given for the change.

Then there was also the odd decision to start with Thomas Müller, the Bayern captain, ahead of the in-form Serge Gnabry and then replace the former with the latter at half time. Müller has scored four times in his last 10 games compared with Gnabry's six in the same period, and contributed significantly less to the Bayern cause throughout the season than the former Arsenal player. For Müller to start only to be replaced at the break was puzzling and a sign of either a lack of clarity in Kovac's thinking, or a power struggle in the upper echelons of the club.

On the pitch, a classic was unfolding between the league leaders and the side with the fewest number of victories in any of Germany's top three divisions . The game sparked into life three minutes after the break when Nuremberg's Matheus Pereira blew the title race wide open in stunning fashion. With one swing of his left foot, Pereira bent a low shot into the bottom corner, raising the roof and breathing new life into Nuremberg's late fight for Bundesliga survival.

Nuremberg defended well and their star man was goalkeeper Christian Mathenia. A fingertip save onto the bar kept David Alaba's dipping free-kick out in the first half, and a similar intervention kept out Rodriguez, moments before he was replaced in the 74th minute.

But a minute after Rodriguez left the field, Bayern levelled through Gnabry's far post finish from Kingsley Coman's cross. The pendulum appeared to be swinging Bayern's way and it promised to be a nervy finish for the hosts, who had battled so hard and deserved at least a point.

Fußball Bundesliga 1 FC Nürnberg vs Bayern München Leibold verschießt Elfer (Getty Images/Bongarts/S. Widmann)

Bayern were spared a defeat when Tim Leibold's late penalty hit the post.

With the clock ticking down and a draw looking like the best Nuremberg could possibly get from the game, the hosts were awarded a penalty in the 89th minute. A flailing elbow from Davies was clumsy and the referee was in no doubt as he pointed to the spot.

Up stepped Tim Leibold, Nuremberg's left-back, with the hopes of Nuremberg, Borussia Dortmund and almost every Bundesliga neutral on his shoulders. He couldn't convert though - crashing the ball against the inside of the right post. Bayern, Davies, and probably Stuttgart fans too, breathed a collective sigh of relief. Bayern could easily have stolen the points at the death when Coman went clean through, but he couldn't elevate an indifferent personal performance with the winning goal, as Mathenia, the game's outstanding performer, stood tall again.

A point apiece would have suited struggling Nuremberg before a ball was kicked, and they'll take comfort from the manner of this performance ahead of their concluding Bundesliga fixtures. But under the circumstances they should have taken all the points, an outcome which wouldn't only have boosted their chances of staying up, butalso  kept the title race on a knife edge.

Instead, Bayern have a two point cushion and host rock bottom Hannover next weekend. But with a difficult game at RB Leipzig coming up, the visit of Eintracht Frankfurt on the final day, and signs of struggle and indecision at the top of the club, Niko Kovac and Bayern's season may yet come to a sticky end.

Watch video 06:10

Gnabry,"Bayern's jersey weighs a bit more."

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