MUNICH — Jupp Heynckes hailed Serge Gnabry as a “great talent” with “room for improvement” as the Hoffenheim loanee helped his side into a two-goal lead against his parent club before Bayern Munich fought back to win an entertaining game at the Allianz Arena 5-2.
Gnabry is spending this season on loan at Hoffenheim after signing for Bayern from Werder Bremen last summer.
Hoffenheim, coached by 30-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, made a blistering start in Munich with goals from Mark Uth and Serge Gnabry inside the opening 11 minutes. Joshua Kimmich fouled Gnabry in the penalty box in only the third minute, but the ex-Arsenal player saw his spot-kick saved by Sven Ulreich, before Uth forced in the rebound.
The visitors doubled their advantage when Gnabry took advantage from slack play from the Bayern defence to fire a rasping drive into the corner of the net, leaving Ulreich stranded.
Paying tribute to Gnabry’s vibrant opening at the postmatch news conference, Heynckes said: “Gnabry is a great talent. You have to bear in mind that he’s a player who has had to cope with a lot of injuries already in his young career with many absences.
“Last week he was very strong in the first half too against Leverkusen with some great play. But he’s a young player, who has to absorb life as a professional, working, training and playing at a high level.”
But he added: “He still has room for improvement.”
Despite Gnabry’s impressive opening, displaying the hallmark of champions, Bayern struck back to level with a quickfire double strike. Robert Lewandowski poked home a Kimmich shot from close range on 20 minutes, scoring for the tenth home league game in succession, before Jerome Boateng headed in an Arjen Robben corner four minutes later for his first Bundesliga goal since 2013.
Heynckes added : “It was a fantastic game for the fans, an excellent game from both teams.
“We didn’t start the game in the way we are accustomed and fell behind early against a well-organised and structured team who used the space well to counter-attack. Therefore, it was good that we got it back to 2-2 at half-time.”
Bayern took control of the game after the hour mark when Kingsley Coman latched on to a neat Lewandowski pass to put Bayern ahead on 63 minutes, before Arturo Vidal’s looping header from another Robben corner three minutes later put the result beyond doubt.
Substitute Sandro Wagner scored his first goal for the club in over a decade, bundling the ball home from close range off his thigh in the final minute.
Heynckes praised his side’s team spirit: “It wasn’t just quality that lead us to victory. We play as a team and work for each other.
“Overall, I am pleased although I’m a coach who likes to keep clean sheets. But we were playing a strong opponent, so we must be satisfied.
“We worked incredibly hard in training this week. The team was focused, because I was wary of Hoffenheim.”
Bayern’s comeback win maintains their 16-point advantage at the top over nearest challengers Schalke, who beat struggling Stuttgart 2-0.