Few sides can match Bayern Munich at their own game, let alone beat them – and beat them handily.
Borussia Monchengladbach did exactly that on Saturday, running out 3-1 winners and breaking Bayern’s 14-game unbeaten run in this season’s Bundesliga.
History gave the Foals a better chance than most. They took four points from their encounters last season, more than any other side, while Bayern had won only two of their previous eight meetings at Borussia-Park.
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But history mattered little to Andre Schubert’s side, themselves on a nine-game streak and scoring freely since the former Under-23 boss took charge.
Bayern’s air of invincibility did not break Gladbach’s stride as they out-thought, out-ran and out-played the current Bundesliga champions.
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And no longer can anyone claim the 44-year-old is a quick fix or Gladbach are riding high off the feel-good factor following his appointment.
Schubert beat the world’s leading manager at his own game.
Attacking trio inspire Gladbach to 3-1 win
Such victories against quality opposition are not without their scares and for spells in the first-half, Gladbach found themselves under the cosh.
Kingsley Coman struck the post, while Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller uncharacteristically lacked a clinical touch and shot straight at Yann Sommer during a 20-minute period.
But the Foals’ own goal threat was prevalent and an attack that averages almost three goals-per-game under Schubert delivered in the second half.
Beautiful interplay between Oscar Wendt and Raffael saw the former curl in a wonderful first, Lars Stindl reacted quickest to poke home a second and Julian Korb’s through ball released Fabian Johnson for their third goal in 14 minutes.
Franck Ribery pulled a consolation goal back on his return from a nine-month injury spell but the away side had few chances in the second half.
Gladbach attackers lead from the front in tactical battle
American international Johnson was highlighted as Gladbach’s leading threat pre-match but their front three were equally vital to their success - and not always because of their attacking.
The high-risk pressing game deployed by Raffael, Stindl and Johnson restricted Bayern’s ability to play out from the back and thus limited their goal threat as well.
Jerome Boateng had little time to deliver his range of trademark, arching long balls while fellow centre-half Medhi Benatia looked uncomfortable with the ball all afternoon. The game largely passed-by a static and slow Xabi Alonso.
A lack of service hindered Lewandowski, too. The Pole, so often used to latching on to service with aplomb, struggles much more to fashion his own chances and made little impact against a resolute back line.
And once they had the ball, Gladbach frequently exploited the space in behind Rafinha and piled forward in numbers.
The one-touch play leading to the home side’s first goal was sensational and indicative of the confidence with which they currently play.
Can others learn from Schubert's side?
They pressed both confidently and cleverly, turned the ball over with regularity and constantly passed the visitors half-baked press.
It was a Bayern-style performance from the hosts in many ways and showed a high-risk strategy against the leaders can bring positive rewards.
Whether their boundless energy would have been hindered after a midweek game is up for debate, but Schubert was bold in his selection and tactics – and it paid dividends.
No other team has harried the Champions so vigorously, with most of their opponents preferring to sit back soak up the pressure.
The success rate with such tactics is pretty poor; it worked once for plucky Frankfurt in a goalless draw and failed for 13 others.
Schalke executed it well in Bayern’s previous away game and yet they still lost 3-1, despite having attacking talent very similar to that at Gladbach’s disposal.
It may be that Schubert has showcased the blueprint to beat Bayern and others will follow now but Guardiola also lacked a ‘plan B’ – an accusation levelled at the Spaniard more than once this season.
Here, he was beaten on his own terms and may even have left the door slightly ajar for a title race.
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