In the end, it was a predictable result. Champions League winner Bayern Munich beat Europa League winner Sevilla, 2-1, to win the UEFA Super Cup and further underline its status as the best club in the world. But a winner scored at the end of the first half of extra time by substitute Javi Martinez, who failed to score in 24 matches last season, was not a predictable way for the perennial Bundesliga champion to win it.
Martinez had been on the field only five minutes when he headed in after Bono had parried away a David Alaba shot. Martinez, coincidentally, had also scored in Bayern’s last Super Cup win, forcing penalties in the waning moments of extra time in 2013 vs. Chelsea. But this was quite possibly the Spain international’s final game for the club, with Martinez reportedly set to return to Athletic Bilbao.
It had been a strange night all around, not least because of the presence of fans: 20,000 of them, socially distanced through the Puskas Arena in Budapest. The local mayor, fearing a COVID-19 outbreak, had called for the experiment to be abandoned and, welcome as the presence of spectators was in terms of the spectacle, only in the coming days can it be determined whether the move was a success or not. If there is no spate of positive tests–and very few fans traveled from Munich, where there has been a recent surge in the virus–then this could offer a vision of the future in countries in which the pandemic is under some sort of control.
Another odd site was that of Bayern trailing on the scoreboard. Sevilla took a 13th-minute lead on a penalty kick from Lucas Ocampos. The only doubt about the penalty, awarded as David Alaba barged into Ivan Rakitic as he moved into a Luuk De Jong header back across goal, was that it was the type of offense that often isn’t penalized. Indeed, there was even an argument that it might have been a red card: there was no realistic attempt to play the ball from Alaba, so the only thing that saved him was presumably the thought that Rakitic wouldn’t have reached his own touch and so it was not a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Nevertheless, Ocampos, ostentatiously looking to his right to send Manuel Neuer the wrong way, shot to his left to convert the penalty.
Thereafter, it was a story of Bayern domination. Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski had both uncharacteristically squandered presentable chances before Lewandowski’s deft layoff teed up Leon Goreztka for a measured finish to pull even in the 34th minute.
Bayern, which entered Thursday with 22 consecutive wins in all competitions, is playing with a supreme confidence at the moment and, while the swagger of Friday’s Bundesliga-opening, 8-0 win over Schalke wasn’t quite there, only a narrow offside denied it a brilliant second following an audacious one-two in the box between Lewandowski and Muller.
The only thing that prevented a Bayern win seeming inevitable was the nature of Sevilla, which has a habit of riding out storms and finding winners. It may be a stretch to suggest it could win its first La Liga title since 1946 this season, but with Real Madrid and Barcelona both in what might politely be termed transition, there’s certainly a possibility that it could push the big two closer than they’re used to being pushed.
Ever Banega and Sergio Reguilon have gone from the Europa League-winning side, and Jules Kounde has been liked with Manchester City, but Rakitic impressed as he began his second stint at the club. The club’s strength over the years has always been its a capacity to regenerate, thanks largely to its sporting director, Monchi, and it remains as well-organized as ever under manager Julen Lopetegui. It went into the game on a 21-match unbeaten streak of its own.
There was even a chance for Sevilla to win it two minutes from time, as Youssef El-Nesyri was played through by Jesus Navas only to be denied by Neuer. The Morocco international also hit the post early in extra time, although he would probably have been ruled offside had the ball gone in.
Once that chance had gone (and as Lyon learned, you can't miss your chances vs. Bayern), the German power returned to the ascendancy. Perhaps the chances Sevilla had will be of some concern–with Alphonso Davies coming off the bench, Bayern was not at full strength, either–but leaking opportunities has been a feature of its play throughout this winning run. It simply backs itself to score more than its opponent. And the truth is that it had enough chances to have won far more comfortably. As an attacking force, Bayern is an exceptional team.