ATwo women stood on the sidelines of the Munich Arena and waved their arms. They looked at the children who were allowed to stand on the halfway line with the players from Munich and Pilsen, where they had all just listened to the Champions League anthem. Then the women waved their arms and the children sprinted to the sidelines – with one exception: a little boy ran in the wrong direction. The women waved a little more forcefully, but he didn’t turn, pushed past the other children and when he was finally where he wanted to be, he held out his hand. And Sadio Mané hit it off.
In the first 20 minutes of the game, the little boy might have cursed himself for choosing the wrong striker. Leroy Sané made it 1-0 in the seventh minute. In the 13th minute, Serge Gnabry made it 2-0. And in the 15th minute, Mané shot … into the arms of Pilsen goalkeeper Marian Tvrdon.
But then came the 21st minute.
Mané slipped the ball between two defenders twice – like a Oktoberfest waiter with beer mugs between the drunks in the beer tent. He did it skillfully the first time. Lucky the second time. And at the latest when Mané, the third striker in the starting line-up, shot the ball into the goal, one suspected that it would be a relaxed after-Wiesn evening for fans and players from Munich.
On Tuesday evening, FC Bayern, the German champions, won 5-0 in the Champions League against Viktoria Pilsen, the Czech champions. “Today it was very serious, very confident,” said coach Julian Nagelsmann afterwards in the DAZN interview. His team thus also won the third group game – and scored five goals for the first time since the cup game against Viktoria Köln.
And yet “serious” was the right description for what you could see that evening in the arena in Munich. Because the duel in what is said to be the most demanding competition in world football was at most a warm-up for FC Bayern for the highlight of the week, which is scheduled for Saturday in Dortmund.
With a view to the Bundesliga top game, Nagelsmann changed his starting XI. Because he wanted to: the regular players Benjamin Pavard and Marcel Sabitzer only came for a short time. And because he had to: the regular players Joshua Kimmich and Thomas Müller were not used because of corona infections. But it was not only interesting who Nagelsmann didn’t let play, but who did. For example, national players Serge Gnabry (one goal) and Leon Goretzka (two assists). And of course Sadio Mané.
The striker, who has been playing in Munich since the summer, was allowed to play 90 minutes on Tuesday. “It was a difficult few weeks for us,” he said afterwards at DAZN. He was the focus of the centre-forward discussions – and, as his coach later said in the press conference, was a “person with feelings”, which is why the things that were discussed did not leave him “indifferent”.
In the stadium you could see how he was happy about his goal in the 21st minute. And because in games against opponents without a chance – in the second half the in-form Leroy Sané (50th) and substitute Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (59th) increased to 4: 0 and 5: 0 – self-confidence and joy of playing could be increased Play through Mané. His coach knows that he needs a confident and enthusiastic Mané for top games in the Bundesliga – and in the knockout stages of the Champions League anyway.
On Tuesday evening, FC Bayern then set a record in the preliminary round of the premier class. In the phase he is now undefeated for 31 games in a row. This is just the latest proof of the weaknesses of the system: the Champions League is not just supposedly the most demanding competition in world football. But at the earliest from the round of 16.