Robben’s Rocket keeps Bayern ticking in chilly Berlin

After the mid-week defeat to Manchester City – their first since the pre-season Super Cup in August – FC Bayern returned to Bundesliga action where next year’s Champions’ League final will be held: the Olympiastadion in Berlin. Although struggling for form in the bottom half of the table, home side Hertha BSC offered enough resistance to ensure that Pep Guardiola’s side returned to Munich knowing that their three points had been hard-fought and well-earned.

The Bayern coach made a number of changes from the starting eleven in Manchester, with Danté replacing Medhi Benatia and Mario Götze and Thomas Müller returning to the midfield in place of Sebastian Rode and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. Hertha coach Jos Luhukay meanwhile retained the same team that had started the previous week in Köln, as they looked to climb away from the danger zone.

The game began in all-too-familiar fashion on a chilly afternoon in the German capital, with the visitors immediately gaining control of the ball and their opponents assuming a more-defensive approach. Müller created an opening for Robert Lewandowski with just two minutes gone, only for the Polish striker to put the ball over the target. The Berlin team could only stand and watch as Bayern racked up possession figures close to eighty percent.

As Bayern set up camp in the Berlin half and pressed up the field, an opening goal was a matter of “when?” rather than “if.” On twenty-seven minutes. the men in black finally opened the door. Götze and Müller combined nicely to find Arjen Robben lurking just outside the penalty area. Having collected Müller’s smart back-heeled pass, there was a sense of inevitability as the Dutchman skipped inside before launching a trademarked left-footed effort. Former Bayern keeper Thomas Kraft had no chance as the ball flew past him into the top left-hand corner.

There would be more opportunities as Die Roten looked to up the ante before the break, but that elusive second goal wouldn’t come. Juan Bernat would see his shot narrowly deflected over the target by Jens Hegeler, Müller scuffed an effort straight at Kraft, and a Lewandowski effort skidded narrowly wide.

It is said that football is a game of two halves, and so this one would prove to be when the teams returned for the second forty-five minutes. Within three minutes of the restart, Hegeler sent a shot wide when it looked easier to have scored, and, despite their dominance in the first half, if was clear that Bayern couldn’t afford to rest on their laurels.

As Bayern switched down a gear, the home side became a lot bolder in their approach, and a couple of positive substitutions just after the hour mark gave the majority of the 76,197 crowd plenty to cheer about. Manuel Neuer just about managed to hold on to a long-distance thunderbolt from Brazilian Ronny, and Japanese international Hajime Hosogai would actually have the ball in the Bayern net, only to have it correctly ruled out for offside.

With the hitherto toothless Berliners threatening to grab a share of the points, Bayern flicked the switch yet again, but would still be unable to make the game safe. The final ten minutes saw chances for both sides, with Lewandowski twice denied by the excellent Kraft, and German-born US-international John Anthony Brooks blasting high over the target from close range at the other end.

In a game that had been largely tedious for travelling supporters from Munich, a number of bright moments were provided by Neuer, whose antics once again are doing the rounds on the internet. Not content to merely step out of his area and find a colleague with a well-timed pass, Bayern’s sweeper-keeper showed off his heading skills. It is surely only a matter of time before he steps up for a free-kick or corner in the opposition half and buries one in the back of the net.

It was a spirited second half from Luhukay’s men, and, in a season where victories have come all too easily for Bayern, this was be a good, hard test. The final whistle secured three more points, enough to maintain the Bavarians’ seven-point advantage at the top of the league ahead of VfL Wolfsburg.

Bundesliga Week 13
Olympiastadion, Berlin, 29.11.2014

Hertha BSC 0:1 (0:1) FC Bayern
– / Robben 27.

Berlin: Kraft – Ndjeng, Hegeler, Brooks, Schulz – Hosogai, Skjelbred (c) – Beerens, Stocker (76. Haraguchi), Ben-Hatira (62. Kalou) – Schieber (61. Ronny)

FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Boateng, Danté, Bernat – Alonso – Götze (66. Rode), Ribéry – Robben – Müller (80. Schweinsteiger), Lewandowski

Yellow Cards: Hosogai / –

Originally published on the website of the Red Dragons London, the United Kingdom’s premier FC Bayern München fan club

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London-based but with his heart firmly in Fröttmaning, Rick Joshua's love of German football goes back more than thirty years and has witnessed everything from the pain of Spain '82 and the glory of Italia '90 to the sheer desolation of Euro 2000. This has all been encapsulated in the encyclopaedic Schwarz und Weiß website and blog, which at some three hundred or so pages is still not complete. Should you wish to disturb him, you can get in touch with Rick on Twitter @fussballchef. This carries a double meaning, as he can prepare a mean Obazda too.

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