MUNICH, Germany — Canadian national team star Alphonso Davies made his Champions League debut Wednesday. The 19-year-old played 90 minutes in Bayern Munich’s 2-0 victory over Greek side Olympiacos F.C. in front of more than 70,000 fans at the sold-out Allianz Arena.
For Davies, it was the fourth consecutive start across all competitions. Playing as a wing-back in a 4-3-3 formation, Davies was handed his first Bundesliga start under head coach Niko Kovač in Bayern’s 2-1 win over Union Berlin on Oct. 26.
Davies then played 90 minutes in Bayern’s 2-1 victory over VfL Bochum in the DFB Pokal on Oct. 29 and 90 minutes in his club’s 5-1 defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt last Saturday.
That game marked the last match under Kovač. Kovač and Bayern parted ways on Sunday in dramatic fashion. Kovač was at first told that he would be given the games against Olympiacos and the Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday to rescue his career at Bayern. Kovač then led the training session but came to the conclusion that it was no longer possible to work with the squad and handed in his resignation that was accepted by the club.
Kovač’s end at Bayern Munich was cause for some concern back in Canada. Davies had just played his way into the starting XI. Would interims head coach Hansi Flick keep the confidence in the wing-back, who had a mixed performance against Eintracht Frankfurt?
Against Olympiacos, the answer was yes, as Davies started the game and played the full 90 minutes. And once again, Davies started in the much-debated left-back role. After losing world-class defenders Lucas Hernández and Niklas Süle to long-term injuries, as well as Jérôme Boateng to a red card suspension, it has become a necessity to play Davies in a back-four.
The Canadian is not the only one playing out of position. Against Olympiacos, Bayern’s nominal left-back David Alaba was moved to the center to fill the void left by the three absent defenders.
“I have a world-class left-back alongside me in Alaba, which makes it easier for me,” Davies said to UEFA.com after the game. “He helps and guides me on the pitch.”
With Alaba on his side, Davies made a significant step forward from the Frankfurt game. In that game, he was good in the attack, but at times, he struggled to keep the pace with Frankfurt’s experienced winger Danny da Costa.
“Personally, I’m very happy with how I played, I think I defended well,” Davies said to UEFA.com after the game. “As a team, we also played well and created lots of chances, we could have scored more.”
Davies’ assessment was spot on. Bayern did create several chances in the first half but failed to get past goalkeeper José Sá, who had an excellent game for Olympiacos. It took until the second half until Bayern finally found a way through. Once again, Robert Lewandowski scored. The Polish forward has now scored 21st goal in 17 games across all competitions this season.
Lewandowski’s goal in the 68th minute paved the way to Bayern’s 2-0 victory. Bayern’s dominance was too much for the Greeks to get back into the game, and in the 89th minute, Ivan Perišić added the insurance marker.
Meanwhile, Davies’ numbers were good. The 19-year-old had 92 touches, completed 88.3% of his passes, and won six of his 11 ground duels.
When asked by Pro Soccer USA after the match about his game, Davies just smiled.
“Sorry I have to run, I can’t speak to the press,” he said.
Hansi Flick, however, was more forthcoming when asked about Davies.
“Defensively, he was very good,” Flick told Pro Soccer USA. “He has a lot of speed, that is his biggest advantage.
“In the second half, he showed that he has qualities in the attack as well. I would like him to be more adventurous when going forward. But we also have to remember that he only turned 19 just a few days ago. He still has a lot of room to grow, and games like today are a great learning experience.”
The Bayern head coach said in the pre-game press conference that he wants to use the Olympiacos game to set the defense for the Klassiker against Dortmund on Saturday. The game against Olympiacos, therefore, was a good chance for the Canadian to show Flick that he could be an option in what is the biggest game in German football.
“Defensively, it was excellent,” Flick said. “Davies closed his flank against an outstanding Olympiacos attack.” For Flick, the game against Dortmund will be crucial. “It is a game that all of Germany focuses on,” Flick said. “We want to win the game, and we will use tomorrow to prepare for it—I am looking forward to the game.”
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Canada fans will be eager to see whether Davies will be in the lineup for a fifth consecutive game. It would be the next milestone in Davies’ still young career at Bayern.