AJérôme Boateng ran first. Then David Alaba and Manuel Neuer. And a few seconds later, almost all the FC Bayern Munich players were jostling around Markus Schmidt, the referee whom they were talking to with waving arms. The players called for a whistle because they said that Mainz’s Jonathan Burkardt had illegally pressed his arm against Boateng’s back.
But the referee only pulled out the yellow card because he said that Boateng complained too insolently about it. The argument was continued a bit after that, but when Schmidt blew his pipe to kick off, his decision was made: 1-0 for Mainz in Munich.
In the new year Bayern started as in the old one: one behind, the eighth in a row in the Bundesliga. Burkardt scored the 1-0 in the 32nd minute. It just didn’t stop there. In the 44th minute, Alexander Hack headed the 2-0. And in the 48th minute Danny Latza should have scored the 3-0, but from five meters away he only slammed the ball against the post – also because goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was still touching it with his fingertips. And so the brave Mainz had to learn in a particularly painful way that you shouldn’t miss a chance against these Bavarians. After that, they do what they usually do: they turn up the energy – and turn the game around. They scored five goals in 33 minutes: Joshua Kimmich (50th), Leroy Sané (56th), Niklas Süle (70th) and Robert Lewandowski (77th, penalty, 83rd). Final score: 5: 2.
To achieve this result, however, a tactical adjustment was necessary during the break. At the second half, coach Hansi Flick Niklas Süle and Leon Goretzka replaced Boateng and Benjamin Pavard and changed his line of defense. With Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich as attacking full-backs, the champions overran the Mainz team. Between the 50th and 83rd minute, almost every attack ended with a goal: Kimmich scored with a header, Sané with a firm low shot from 16 meters, Süle with a full-cocked shot after a corner, Lewandowski with a penalty and a push-in. It looked so easy.
It speaks for Bayern, of course, that they turned a two-goal deficit into a three-goal advantage in just 33 minutes. But it speaks against them that they had to do that at all. They had very good chances of scoring in the first half – Sané and especially Tolisso missed out twice – but a lot of things didn’t fit. Some balls jumped, some passes failed – or were not even tried. When Lewandowski, at the end of a counterattack, did not pass the ball to Thomas Müller, who sprinted past him, but neither shot it precisely nor sharply on goal, Müller shouted: “Kiss my ass!”
The body language of the people of Mainz, who have had turbulent holidays behind them and with Christian Heidel (sports director), Martin Schmidt (sports director) and Jan Siewert (interim trainer), on the other hand, was conspicuously optimistic for a table penultimate. They celebrated almost every successful action – and there were a few of them in the first half. They played bravely in Munich. But then they became quieter. When Robin Quaison hit the crossbar at 2-2, the bankers jumped up again. It was the last Mainz twitch in a game that once again revealed what distinguishes Bayern from their rivals: They don’t lose such games themselves.