Thomas Müller proves his worth as Bayern Munich reach German Cup quarters

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Thomas Müller has kicked off the new decade in style, scoring in all four of Bayern Munich’s games in 2020. The 30-year-old forward has been rejuvenated under Hansi Flick and has showed his value once again.

He is a quirky footballer. His goals are often unconventional. But Thomas Müller is one of Bayern Munich’s most important players.

The 30-year-old veteran proved that again in the Bavarian’s 4-3 win over Hoffenheim in the German Cup on Wednesday.

After Bayern fell 1-0 behind early, it was Müller’s run toward the near post that led Benjamin Hübner to tap in Alphonso Davies’ cross inadvertently for the equalizer. Another clever run by Müller behind Hoffenheim’s defense put him in the perfect position to finish David Alaba’s pinpoint pass and put Bayern ahead.

His aerial challenge with Kevin Akpoguma and goalkeeper Philipp Pentke set the table for Robert Lewandowski to score the first of his two goals. Only after Müller’s removal in the 83rd minute, a miscalculation by Bayern coach Hansi Flick, did Bayern begin to fall apart, allowing for a dramatic Hoffenheim comeback attempt that ultimately fell short.

But the German forward’s performance, which earned him the Man of the Match award, was another reminder that his contributions, however they come, are necessary for a Bayern team on course for a second straight domestic double.

Flying under Flick

With his goal in the German Cup, Müller has scored in each of Bayern’s four games to start the new decade. That he was glued to the bench earlier this season is unfathomable given his current form.

But that was the case under Niko Kovac, who departed as Bayern’s coach at the beginning of November. After securing the domestic double last season, Kovac was keen on changing Bayern’s system, favoring the newly acquired Philippe Coutinho over the former German international.

The switch saw Müller start on the bench in six consecutive games — four in the Bundesliga and two in the Champions Leagues. It was the first such stretch in his career since he spent a month out injured in 2017.

But Müller refound his form once Kovac got the boot, and Flick replaced him as interim head coach.

Flick, who had worked with Müller for years while with the German national team, wasted no time reinserting the 30-year-old forward back into the starting lineup. The interim boss has benched Müller just twice in the 14 games since his appointment, and the Bayern veteran has rewarded his coach with seven goals and nine assists in those games.

“I’ve known Thomas for a long time,” Flick told German broadcaster ARD after Bayern’s cup triumph on Wednesday. “He is very important for a coach because he translates the coaching philosophy and tactics onto the field.”

A Bayern icon

The fact that his contract is set to expire in 2021 led to some speculation that his time at Bayern was coming to an end.

But Müller remains a key figure in the club, one that he has played for since he was 10 years old. Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer said in an interview with German magazine kicker that it is “hard to imagine a Bayern without Müller.”

“Thomas embodies Bayern and represents the club excellently,” Hainer said. “Every success and title in the last decade are closely tied with the name Thomas Müller. Also this season Thomas is showing his importance; especially under Hansi Flick he absolutely has been a key player.”

Müller insisted to Sky Sports Germany after Bayern’s victory on Wednesday that he hasn’t “changed anything about my game” under Flick.

“When you’re active and you try to make runs, then you always have the opportunity to put yourself and others (in good positions),” Müller said.

He has been one of the best at those things in recent years, and he showed in the German Cup on Wednesday how important those things are for Bayern.

Bayern Munich 4-3 Hoffenheim
(Boateng o.g. 8′, Müller 20′, Lewandowski 36′, 80′ — Hübner o.g., Dabbur 82′, 90+2′)

As it happened…

90+6′ Fulltime! Hoffenheim’s comeback falls short.

90+2′ GOAL Pavel Kaderabek’s cross is cleared poorly off the post by Benjamin Pavard. Munas Dabbur collects the ricochet and finds the back of the net. Bayern Munich 4, Hoffenheim 3

90+1′ Four minutes added onto the second half. Chants of “Berlin, Berlin. We’re going to Berlin” ring through the Allianz Arena.

87′ Munas Dabbur heads a cross from Steven Zuber just wide, nearly putting Hoffenheim within a goal with three minutes to play.

84′ Yellow card David Alaba sees yellow for handling the ball just outside the box. Havard Nordtveit’s ensuing free kick sails wide right.

83′ Bayern sub Alvaro Odriozola replaces Jerome Boateng, a tactical change from Hansi Flick. Odriozola takes over the right back duties, with Benjamin Pavard shifting into central defense. It is the Spaniard’s first appearance for Bayern Munich following a loan move from Real Madrid.

Bayern Munich are out of substitutions unless the game goes into extra time, during which they will be granted one more change.

82′ GOAL! Steven Zuber pokes the ball away from Benjamin Pavard and finds Munas Dabbur in the penalty area. The Israeli international finishes with his left foot past Manuel Neuer. Bayern Munich 4, Hoffenheim 2

81′ Bayern subs Hansi Flick makes a double change, bringing of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller and bringing on Joshua Zirkzee and Mikael Cuisance.

80′ GOAL! Robert Lewandowski ices the game by heading in a corner from Joshua Kimmich. Bayern Munich 4, Hoffenheim 1

75′ Christoph Baumgartner makes a terrific run through Bayern’s midfield before firing a shot from distance, but Manuel Neuer handles it easily.

72′ Benjamin Hübner receives a deflected cross from Andrej Kramaric in the box and fires a shot into the back of the net. But the referee rules the goal out because the ball hit Hübner’s arm.

71′ Hoffenheim subs Alfred Schreuder makes a double change, bringing on Lucas Ribero for Florian Grillitsch and Christoph Baumgartner for Jacob Bruun Larsen. Hoffenheim are out of substitutions unless they are able to send the game to extra time, after which they would be allowed to make one more change.

71′ Steven Zuber plays a one-two with Andrej Kramaric before unleashing a shot that Manuel Neuer has to tip over the bar. Corentin Tolisso clears the ensuing corner.

65′ Florian Grillitsch receives treatment on the sideline after a rough challenge. He comes back on two minutes later.

60′ Hoffenheim sub Munas Dabbur replaces Ihlas Bebou, a straight swap from Alfred Schreuder.

57′ A shot from Ihlas Bebou pin balls off David Alaba and Jerome Boateng before sailing over the crossbar. Bayern’s defense clears the ensuing corner.

55′ Yellow card Benjamin Pavard gets booked for a high boot as he tries to a free kick from Sebastian Rudy. His leg collided with Havard Nordtveit’s head, and the Norwegian midfielder received treatment before getting back on his feet.

53′ Jerome Boateng takes down Sebsatian Rudy, setting up a set piece opportunity for Hoffenheim. Rudy lofts the ensuing free kick in Havard Nordtveit’s direction, but the flag goes up for offside.

52′ Thomas Müller receives the ball from Philippe Coutinho at the top of the box on the break. The German international tries to float a shot over Philipp Pentke, but his shot lands on the top of the net.

49′ Serge Gnabry receives a ball over the from Benjamin Pavard, but the flag goes up for offside.

46′ Second half kickoff!

21:40 Some halftime statistics…

  • Shots on goal: Bayern 10, Hoffenheim 2
  • Possession: Bayern 59%, Hoffenhiem 41%
  • Passing success: Bayern 85%, Hoffenheim 78%

45′ Halftime!

41′ Benjamin Pavard receives the ball from Thomas Müller on the right wing. His shot skips across the face of goal and out of play.

36′ GOAL! Hoffenheim’s Philipp Pentke collides with Benjamin Hübner while trying to clear a long pass from Joshua Kimmich. Robert Lewandowski heads the loose ball into an empty net. Bayern Munich 3, Hoffenheim 1

31′ Yellow card Havard Nordtveit gets booked for a rash challenge on Corentin Tolisso.

27′ Serge Gnabry collects a long pass from Joshua Kimmich on the right side of the penalty area. He collects the ball and fires a shot across the face of goal and out for a goal kick.

25′ Robert Lewandowski threads a pass to Serge Gnabry on the right side of Hoffenheim’s box. Gnabry cuts back and fires but Philipp Pentke makes the save.

24′ Serge Gnabry dribbles around Pavel Kaderabek in Hoffenheim’s penalty area. Gnabry’s ensuing shot is deflected by Philipp Pentke out for a corner. The ensuing courner is cleared by Hoffenheim.

23′ Philippe Coutinho picks out Robert Lewandowski in the penalty area, but the strikers shot is off the chest of Philipp Pentke.

20′ GOAL! David Alaba picks out Thomas Müller’s run into the box and the German international slots a shot past Philipp Pentke in Hoffenheim’s goal. The strike was Müller’s fourth in has many games in 2020. Bayern Munich 2, Hoffenheim 1

13′ OWN GOAL! Alphonso Davies crosses the ball from the left, and Benjamin Hübner, with Thomas Müller closing in, deflects the pass into Hoffenheim’s goal. Bayern Munich 1, Hoffenheim 1

8′ OWN GOAL! Florian Grillitsch finds Ihlas Bebou in the penalty area, and the Hoffenheim forward fires a shot off Jerome Boateng and into the back of the net. Bayern Munich 0, Hoffenheim 1

5′ Goal disallowed! Thomas Müller sets up Robert Lewandowski for a clean finish inside the six-yard box, but the linesman raises his flag for offside. Video evidence showed that Müller was offside in the run-up to the chance.

3′ Philippe Coutinho receives the ball at the edge of the box, and fires a shot inches wide of the goal.

1′ Kickoff! We are underway in Munich.

20:40 Cup in the cold! The temperature in Allianz Arena is 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). Perhaps it is a good thing that the German Cup was in Leverkusen for the Leverkusen-Stuttgart game on Wednesday.

20:30 “He gives a lot of people confidence.” Bayern’s head of sport Hasan Salihamidzic praised head coach Hansi Flick on German broadcaster ARD before the game.

20:10 Lucas Hernandez, Bayern’s record signing who has been out with a knee injury, is on the club’s bench for Wednesday’s contest. He made nine appearances for the Bavarians before suffering a

19:55 Alfred Schreder appears to be using a three-man defense for the first time since the end of November. Hoffenheim has featured a four-man back line for the last two months, but the first-year head coach has apparently reverted back to the tactics he used earlier this year. Hoffenheim primarily used a three-man defense under their last head coach, Julian Nagelsmann.

19:45 Serge Gnabry is making his first start of the new year after spending Bayern’s first three games in 2020 on the bench. He takes the place of Ivan Perisic, who picked up an injury in training after a hard tackle from January addition Alvaro Odriozola.

Meanwhile, Corentin Tolisso is making his first start since November, his third in the German Cup this season, replacing Thiago in Bayern’s midfield. He was the club’s record signing when he joined the Bavarians in 2017 for €41.5 million — Bayern have since broken that record, spending €80 million on Lucas Hernandez. But injuries and inconsistency have prevented the French international from establishing a role in this Bayern squad.

19:40 Lineups are out!

Bayern Munich: Neuer — Pavard, Boateng, Alaba, Davies — Tolisso, Kimmich — Müller, Coutinho, Gnabry — Lewandowski

Hoffenheim: Pentke — Nordtveit, Akpoguma, Hübner — Kaderabek, Rudy, Grillitsch, Zuber — Bruun Larsen, Kramaric, Bebou

Pregame spotlight: Serge Gnabry, Bayern Munich

The German international started Bayern’s first three games of the new year on the bench, coming on as a substitute in all three contests. But Ivan Perisic picked up an injury in training that will keep him out for weeks, so the German international may be thrust in the starting lineup. Gnabry scored in Bayern’s last German Cup game in Bochum and has 12 goals in 25 games in all competitions.

Pregame spotlight: Sebastian Rudy, Hoffenheim

The former Bayern midfielder returned to Hoffenheim last August after spending last season with Schalke. His is far from the peak form he showed in 2016-17, but he has been a solid contributor for Alfred Schreuder’s side this campaign. He will be needed as a shield for Hoffenheim’s defense when his side takes on the defending German Cup winners.

Fun fact

Bayern Munich are playing in the last 16 of the German Cup for the 19th consecutive season, extending their own competition record. They have advanced to the quarterfinals each of the last 12 years, their last round of 16 defeat coming to Aachen in 2006-07.

Historic form

Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim will face off for the first time in the German Cup on Wednesday. The Bavarians have won 15 of their 23 Bundesliga meetings, while Hoffenheim have won three.

DW

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