Serge Gnabry master class masks Bayern Munich’s bland display in German Cup | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 06.02.2019
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Serge Gnabry master class masks Bayern Munich’s bland display in German Cup

Bayern Munich have triumphed over Hertha Berlin to reach the German Cup quarterfinals. But it took an outstanding performance from Serge Gnabry to cover up a lack of fluidity and defensive fragility.

They say too many cooks spoil the broth, but Bayern Munich could have done with a few more sous chefs to support Serge Gnabry’s master class against Hertha Berlin on Wednesday at the German capital's Olympiastadion.

The 23-year-old, making his first start of 2019, cooked up a glorious performance as he terrorized the Hertha defense and scored two goals to help Bayern bounce back after conceding from the first shot of the match.

Gnabry may have been subbed off on 89 minutes with the score tied at 2-2, but there was little doubt who would be named man of the match once Bayern had sealed victory in extra time through a Kingsley Coman header.

"He got the award for man of the match and that says it all," Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac said after the game. "His dynamism on the ball was amazing. Left or right foot, he’s so technically gifted, and at speed. You don’t know which is his stronger foot."

Gnabry’s performance surely seals a spot in Kovac’s side after a few niggling injuries this season. Bayern have only lost one match when he's been named in the starting lineup and that was against Bundesliga leaders Dortmund.

But while Bayern deserved their victory after dominating possession, there was a clear lack of cohesion among a midfield trio of Thiago, Leon Goretzka, and James Rodriguez, while Robert Lewandowski was largely listless as an isolated lone striker.

Hertha certainly weren’t at their best either and yet still took Bayern to extra time, a concerning trend this season where the defending Bundesliga champions have struggled to instill fear and punish weaker opponents.

This team still needs to rediscover its mojo if there is to be any chance of winning silverware this season and Kovac avoiding a disappointing first campaign.

Read more: Opinion: Bayern Munich coach Kovac deserves a fresh start

Fußball: DFB-Pokal, Achtelfinale | Hertha BSC - FC Bayern München | 1:2 (Reuters/H. Hanschke)

Serge Gnabry (left) fires in a shot shortly after halftime to give Bayern Munich a 2-1 lead

Teammates fail to emulate Gnabry master class

As was proven earlier in the season, Bayern are always just a few poor results away from disaster. Indeed with just three minutes on the clock, they were already facing negative headlines in the morning proclaiming a fresh crisis for the Bavarian giants.

The knives were out, the chefs in the media already concocting their narratives via hastily scribbled notes and furious taps on keyboards after Max Mittelstädt opened the scoring with the first shot of the match. Niklas Süle was too slow to react, Bayern’s defense too easily caught out as the ball fired past an outstretched Sven Ulreich.

Yet Gnabry's master class pulled them out of the abyss. Not for the first time in his career, the winger cooked up his own story line, putting Hertha's defense to the sword as he pulled out his "pot stirring" celebration for the first time since December.

His first goal came after seven minutes, launching Bayern back into the contest with a perfectly executed volley that was powerful enough to beat Rune Jarstein. The second arrived following a flowing Bayern move that showed they can still conjure up magic even when performing far below their best. Rodriguez flicked on Robert Lewandowski's layoff to Gnabry, who then slotted the ball past Jarstein.

But Mats Hummels' howler on 67 minutes gifted Hertha an equalizer, his weak attempt to head back to Ulreich allowing Davie Selke to snare possession and steal a goal. The experienced defender's error not only sending the match into extra time but also denying Gnabry a deserved match-winner after a flawless performance.

"We have to stop making these mistakes," Niko Kovac said. "If we manage to stop these mistakes then we will start winning games easier."

As it was, Coman would seal the match, heading home in extra time thanks to a defensive calamity from Hertha keeper Jarstein. Bayern did just enough to keep alive their trophy hopes this season, especially with Dortmund crashing out of the Cup against Werder Bremen.

Niko Kovac(picture-alliance/SvenSimon/F. Hoermann)

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac

Decisive month ahead for Bayern

After all, the German Cup could be Kovac’s only chance at silverware this season. And it's a trophy the club is accustomed to winning, having lifted it 10 times over the last two decades.

But first, Kovac and Bayern will have to travel to Liverpool in two weeks' time for the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 clash.

Asked whether he felt his team could step up against stronger opposition, Kovac only required one confident, adamant syllable.

"Yes."

If Bayern are to indeed overcome the might of Liverpool's attacking arsenal and get through their resilient defense, they will need a few more of their stars to step up and help Gnabry find the recipe for success.

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