Cracks at Bayern while Dortmund outclassed by Tottenham in UCL
The three German teams' results in the Champions League ran the whole gamut of outcomes -- a win, a draw and a defeat -- but only one club found unhappiness in a resoundingly positive scoreline.
Bayern Munich's 3-0 victory over an Anderlecht side that spent almost the entire match with one man down threw up all sorts of uncomfortable questions about Carlo Ancelotti's regime. It provided deeply unsettling answers.
Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, suffered a 3-1 away defeat at the hands of Tottenham; a first real, painful misstep under new coach Peter Bosz, with some important lessons.
Only RB Leipzig emerged from the midweek fixtures largely content. Their 1-1 draw with Monaco was a respectable debut performance in Europe's top competition.
Here's a closer look at the trio's performances ...
The match was sold out. But that, like so many things on Tuesday night in the Bavarian capital, only told half the story. An uncharacteristically large number of supporters offered their tickets up for sale or to friends in the run-up to Anderlecht's visit. They were unexcited about the prospect of seeing the Bundesliga champions in action. And for good reason, as it turned out.
"We played without pace and rhythm," Arjen Robben criticised after the final whistle.
"We weren't keen enough to score more goals. With all due respect: after the first goal you have to play this side off the pitch."
Robert Lewandowski had won a penalty and numerical superiority for the home side, courtesy of Sven Kums' professional foul, 12 minutes into the game. Everything was set up for a demolition job following his converted penalty but Bayern never got going. A painful lack of precision and pace unnerved the fans in the Allianz Arena and to make matters worse, the laboured 3-0 win was overshadowed by signs of friction inside the team.
Lewandowski cast a deeply frustrated figure, shaking his head repeatedly before he attracted the ire of Robben for his failure to pick him out in an attacking move. Franck Ribery, the best man on the night, threw his shirt away in disgust following his 78th minute substitution. Only a few days earlier, Thomas Muller and Lewandowski had publicly proclaimed their dissatisfaction.
None of these minor incidents are that important by themselves but their cumulative effect was impossible to overlook. There's trouble brewing. Tellingly, Robben warned three times that Bayern needed "togetherness" before he left the stadium near midnight.
A month into the season, there are visible fault lines and cracks in the red machine's veneer. It seems ironic that Ancelotti, universally admired for his man-management skills, should find himself faced with an increasingly splintered dressing room but then again it isn't really.
Players have noted the Italian didn't reprimand them for previous minor misdemeanours, such as late arrival for training or bad body language on the bench, and little by little, team discipline has eroded until proverbial liberties are being taken in broad daylight.
In defence of Ancelotti, you might argue his authority has been eroded by the Bayern board's decision to put a sporting director (Hassan Salihamidzic) and an assistant coach in Willy Sagnol as watchdogs on the bench. But these measures are better understood as a reaction to the lax regiment, not its cause.
On Tuesday, you could discern another fundamental factor behind Bayern's failure to behave like a team: Ancelotti's football, which hinges on individual solutions, fosters the very individualism that's begun to poison the atmosphere in the dressing room.
Devoid of the strong positioning game and recognisable patterns of attacks that have shaped the Bavarians' style since Louis van Gaal's tenure in 2009-10, the team do not play together any more. It's each man on his own out there, each man for himself.
If Ancelotti or his superiors aren't able to suppress those egotisms in time for the visit to Paris Saint-Germain in two weeks' time, where only a solid collective effort will prevail, winter will come early to Sabener Strasse.
Before the game, all the talk was about Spurs' problems adjusting to their part-time digs in north west London but it was the Germans' turn to lament a Wembley hoodoo: for the second time in as many games at this stadium, they blamed an errant Italian referee for their defeat.
At the 2013 Champions League final, Nicola Rizzoli failed to send Bayern defender Dante off for a foul in the box. On Wednesday night, Gianluca Rocchi chalked off a perfectly good goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang that would have made it 2-2. The Gabon striker was incorrectly ruled offside and Tottenham almost immediately scored the third goal, the irrepressible Harry Kane crowning a superb performance with a fine brace.
"At this level, it's hard to turn a game around if you get wrong decisions," BVB sporting director Michael Zorc angrily declared.
"Unfortunately, the referee didn't have the quality of [the two teams] tonight."
Nuri Sahin, too, felt Rocchi had hurt the Black and Yellows' cause, by playing on when the Turkish international was outmuscled in midfield by Kane in the run-up to the England striker's first goal.
"I'm not sure why he didn't give the foul," Sahin said.
The complaint was somewhat undermined by the admission that he had looked for the foul, however.
Even if there wasn't too much wrong with Kane powering past the Borussia midfielder, there is no doubt that Dortmund got very unlucky at a crucial time in the game when Aubameyang's equaliser was ruled out. Then again, Tottenham missed two gilt-edged chances to put the game beyond the visitors before while Bosz's men had struggled to create meaningful breakthroughs in the second half.
Tottenham looked smarter and more efficient, as Dortmund went home wondering how and why they had fallen into a trap of Mauricio Pochettino's making with their high defensive line.
Bosz didn't think it was tactical problem but one of focus and application. His players had been "too nice" in their doomed efforts to stave off the first two Tottenham goals, the Dutchman argued.
There was an element of naivety, for sure, but the defenders weren't helped by Borussia's risky set-up. By pushing everyone forward, Bosz had left very little room for error at the back.
"They were given a lesson," was spox.com's verdict. The question is now whether it can be heeded.
Bosz will either have to modify his principles, especially against top opposition, or double-down, by getting his midfield to exert much more pressure to prevent counterattacks before they come to fruition. Choosing the latter option is further complicated by the fact that Dortmund's centre-backs, with the exception of Marc Bartra, are not quite good enough to cover vast spaces in one-to-one duels.
The new coach will have to find a balance of some sort, urgently, if the club are to win the Bundesliga and go deep in Europe once more.
It could have easily been more than a point but for the competition novices, it was enough. There were no serious regrets in Leipzig after a 1-1 draw against last year's semifinalists Monaco, the joy of giving a decent account of themselves at the highest level outweighed any disappointments for Ralph Hasenhuttl's men.
"It was a great feeling, we were all incredibly happy to play in the Champions League," said Germany striker Timo Werner.
"It's a little bit annoying that we quickly conceded a goal after going 1-0 up but the way the game went, a draw seems like the just result."
Indeed it did. Neither side really offered enough to claim all three points in a cagey and at times rather attritional encounter that was dominated by caution. Both teams were out to deny each other the spaces their counterattacking game feeds on, and both largely succeeded in doing just that.
The main point -- apart from the one that's now on the board for Leipzig in Group G -- was that the first club from the East of Germany to make it to Europe's top club competition in 26 years did not look out of place at this level but perfectly capable of making it to the next round. Leipzig, it should never forgotten, are a club set-up by a drinks company; amassing prestige and positive PR at international level is the key component of their strategy.
Keeping all their key players will not exactly be easy, however, now the likes of goal-scorer Emil Forsberg & Co. can showcase their ability on the biggest stage.
The size of Leipzig's task was underlined by Werner openly clamouring for a move to "a big club" in the foreseeable future this week. Being merely successful can only be the first step if RBL are to change players' perception they are but a useful stepping stone. Becoming a truly "big club" will take lots of time. But Wednesday was a good start.
Raphael Honigstein is ESPN FC's German football expert and author of "Bring the Noise: The Jurgen Klopp Story." Follow: @honigstein