Why statistically the defeat to Bayern Munich was absolutely no disgrace for Ahly and Pitso Mosimane

09 February 2021 - 15:09
By Marc Strydom
Al Ahly head coach Mosimane Pitso during the semifinal between Al Ahly SC and FC Bayern Muenchen at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on February 8 2021 in Doha, Qatar.
Image: Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images Al Ahly head coach Mosimane Pitso during the semifinal between Al Ahly SC and FC Bayern Muenchen at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on February 8 2021 in Doha, Qatar.
A glance over the awe-inspiring statistics of Bayern Munich since Hansi Flick became their manager in November 2019 reveals the extent to which Al Ahly’s 2-0 Fifa Club World Cup defeat on Monday night was no disgrace at all.
Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane defended what some called “defensive” tactics in the semifinal in Al Rayyan‚ Qatar, as what was required given the level of the opposition‚ and the match situation of Robert Lewandowski’s first of two strikes coming in just the 17th minute (the second was in the 85th).
A competitive matchup for the African champions against their European counterparts is never easy‚ given the imbalance in resources and wealth. And Bayern were also no ordinary Uefa Champions League winners in 2019-20.
They won all 11 games — the longest winning run in the competition — including all six group stage matches against Tottenham Hotspur‚ Olympiacios and Red Star Belgrade with a +19 goal difference‚ including a 7-2 thrashing of Spurs in London.

After seeing off Chelsea 7-1 on aggregate in the last-16‚ Bayern’s 8-2 single leg thrashing of Barcelona in the quarterfinals was the first time the Catalans conceded so many since 1946. Bayern beat Lyon 3-0 in the semifinals‚ then Paris St-Germain 1-0 in the final‚ for a return of 42 goals for and seven against.

Robert Lewandowski’s 15 goals were the fourth-highest after Cristiano Ronaldo’s 17 for Real Madrid in 2013-14 (Ronaldo also has second and third place of 16 and 15). Lewandowski‚ Poland’s all-time top-scorer‚ is the third-highest all-time scorer (71 goals‚ level with Raul) in the Champions League after Lionel Messi (118) and Ronaldo (132).

Flick took over when the manager he was assistant too‚ Niko Kovac‚ had steered Bayern to fourth place by November of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season. They ended the campaign 13 points clear of Borussia Dortmund — their eighth-straight league title.

When European champions have slipped in the Club World Cup‚ it is because sometimes the competition — which perennially includes Oceania champions Auckland City — is not viewed quite so seriously as the star-studded Champions League. But Bayern have every motivation in Qatar‚ as a title will mean them equalling Barcelona’s 2009 feat as the only two teams to win a sextuplet of six trophies in a season.

In Flick’s 69 matches (58 wins‚ five draws‚ six defeats) Bayern have scored 219 goals at 3.17 goals per game.

Despite Flick’s admission that his team are tiring due to compression of fixtures from Covid-19 circumstances and the many competitions they have progressed to the final in‚ Bayern have shown few signs of letting up in 2020-21. They lead the Bundesliga by seven points from 20 games (15 wins‚ three draws‚ two defeats) where they have scored 58 goals and conceded 26.

Lewandowski‚ at 32‚ and who scored 34 league goals in 31 games in 2019-20‚ has scored 24 in 19 in 2020-21. Thomas Muller‚ at 31‚ has scored 10 goals in 20 games from midfield having scored eight in 33 last campaign.

Ahly had some mean statistics of their own coming into Monday’s semifinal‚ including that they were 32 matches unbeaten‚ and 22 under Mosimane‚ and had won the treble of the Egyptian Premier League‚ Egyptian Cup and Caf Champions League. But‚ like their infrastructure and wealth‚ these paled in comparison to a monolithically impressive Bayern.

Despite this‚ after a torrid opening 20 minutes‚ the Cairo giants held and matched Bayern‚ stretching them‚ though without testing the best goalkeeper in the world‚ Manuel Neuer‚ until Lewandowski’s second with five minutes remaining.

“We played a very good team. You understand why they are No 1 in the world,  and No 1 in Europe also‚” Mosimane said.

“We played well in patches. There were times where we could pass the ball the way we wanted to play‚ but it was not coming most of the time.

“But you have to also accept that they denied us the chance to play. They regained the ball quicker and they pressed us quicker. They are more experienced.”

Bayern meet Mexico’s Tigres‚ 1-0 winners against Brazil’s Palmeiras in their semifinal‚ in Thursday night’s final. Ahly meet Palmeiras for third place.