The fans are back! At least, in Russia.
Easterntimes, 27 October 2020: It was perhaps the most eye-catching moment as the players walked onto the pitch in the Champions League match between Lokomotiv Moscow and Bayern Munich.
The odds were highly stacked against Lokomotiv but they were hoping to continue their good form which helped them hold RB Salzbug last week to a 2–2 draw away from home.
Bayern too were riding on the back of an impressive 4–0 win against Atletico Madrid, one of the best defensively drilled sides in Europe at the moment. They also boasted an xG (expected goals) of 2.29 against Lokomotiv’s 1.46.
Lokomotiv lined up in the 4-2-3-1 formation, playing essentially on the counter. The express objective was to use the pace of Ze Luis playing off the shoulder of the last defender. Bayern set up in their usual 4-2-3-1, with Corentin Tolisso playing behind the prolific Lewandowski.
The hosts counter-attacking gambit almost paid off in the second minute as Miranchuk ran the channel and picked out a delicious cross for Smolov who headed it straight to Neuer when it was perhaps easier to score.
The Moscow club would rue the missed chance as the side from Munich would crank up the pressure and score through Goretzka’s header in the thirteenth minute.
Bayern would dominate the proceedings henceforth with the odd half-chance falling Lokomotiv’s way. Until, the penalty in the second half which was given and then inexplicably overruled by VAR. It seemed to spur the home side on, with Ze Luis constantly finding space behind the otherwise excellent Alaba, and finally setting up Miranchuk for the equalizer.
That was about how good it would get for Lokomotiv.
The fans in the stadium came into their own. The PA system belted out the steam engine’s hoot, the home side’s signature. It felt like a semblance of normality was returning to the games. But the reigning Champions League holders would not stand for change in their status and would prove why they’re still the team to beat this year.
Unfazed, Kimmich received the ball from Martinez, controlled it beautifully and set up a volley that found the bottom corner.
Bayern put the game to bed, and had thrown a gauntlet to other sides in the Champions League.