FC Bayern’s 4-1 mauling at the hands of VfL Wolfsburg had provided something of a shock to all fans of the club, and the Englische Woche fixture against Schalke 04 couldn’t come to soon – if just to get back on track as quickly as possible and get the horror of their first defeat of the season out of their system. While the performance in a chilly Allianz Arena would be a marked improvement on the disaster just three days earlier, things would again not quite go to plan.
Coach Pep Guardiola would make three changes to the starting eleven, with Moroccan international Medhi Benatia replacing Dante as part of an adjusted three-man defensive unit and bright young hopeful Mitchell Weiser coming in as a surprise starter instead of Sebastian Rode in a four-man midfield alongside skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger, Xabi Alonso and Juan Bernat. A new three-man front line would see Mario Götze return in place of Robert Lewandowski.
Bayern started positively and made much of the early running, and both Schweinsteiger and Götze would have half-chances to give Guardiola’s men an early lead. Schalke starlet Max Meyer warmed former Königsblauer Manuel Neuer’s gloves after ten minutes, but as the game passed the fifteen-minute mark the increased capacity crowd of 75,000 would still be waiting for the first goal.
Then, on seventeen minutes the game would take a serious turn. With Schalke’s Sidney Sam closing in on goal, Jérôme Boateng charged in across the speedy winger – sending him crashing to the ground in the box. The Bayern full-back was nowhere near the ball and there was never going to be any doubt about referee Bastian Dankert’s decision to award a penalty, but within seconds the official would brandish the dreaded Rot. Whether Boateng was actually the last man or not would be a matter of debate, but on studying the replay both he and Bayern could have little to complain about.
German-born Cameroon international Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting stepped up with the opportunity to put his team in front and really put Bayern under the cosh, but his poor penalty was easily gathered by Neuer. It was arguably an easy save to make, but once again Bayern’s new “Titan” had released the pressure on his team as he calmly dived to his left and almost nonchalantly collected the ball
Forced to readjust, Bayern coach Guardiola brought on defender Dante at the expense of Götze, and as the match ambled towards half-time one wouldn’t have known which of the two teams were playing with ten men. Chance were few: Kevin-Prince Boateng would get a shot in target that was easily collected by Neuer, and Arjen Robben would send a trademark left-footed curler narrowly high and wide of the target.
The second half would start with no little drama as Schalke ‘keeper Fabian Giefer was replaced by teenager Timon Wellenreuther – making his Bundesliga debut – but apart from one shot from Robben the youngster would have little to worry about early on. Lewandowski replaced Müller as the Bayern coach looked to increase the pressure, but with their opponents content to sit back things would meander past the hour mark.
It had been a fairly flat encounter peppered with moments of controversy, and this pattern would continue after sixty-five minutes. Bayern looked to have taken the lead after Lewandowski’s shot had been deflected into the back of the net off Japanese international Atsuto Uchida, but the assistant’s flag had already gone up with the ball had been deemed over the line. Bayern were awarded a corner, but replays would show that at least part of the ball was on the byline. It looked as though it was going to be one of those rare evenings.
Within seconds however, justice had been done. The home side would finally manage to get things right from the resulting corner, and Xabi Alonso’s perfect delivery into the box was matched by a pinpoint header from Robben that left Wellenreuther no chance. Bayern had looked by far the better side and deserved their lead, and with Schalke offering next to nothing at the other end the home fans’ hopes would be high of taking all three points.
Just five minutes later however Schalke managed to win a corner of their own, and there would be a sense of inevitability as a relatively unpressured Benedikt Höwedes rose perfectly to meet Sam’s well-directed kick. The game earlier in the season in Gelsenkirchen had seen the Schalke skipper bundle the ball into the net with his arm, but this time there would be no doubt about the equaliser as the Höwedes’ firm glancing header looped over and past the helpless Neuer.
The ten men continued to press after that, but chances would be few and fleeting. In the end it was yet another frustratingly disappointing result as the perfect home record came to an end, but given the situation after seventeen minutes one could argue that it was a case of one point gained rather than two lost.
Despite only collecting a point Bayern remain eight points clear of Wolfsburg at the top, after the second-placed side could only salvage a 1-1 draw themselves in Frankfurt. Die Roten’s next game should hopefully see them take their first three points of 2015 as they take the short journey relegation-threatened VfB Stuttgart.
Originally published on the website of the Red Dragons London, the United Kingdom’s premier FC Bayern München fan club
Bundesliga Week 19
Allianz Arena, München, 03.01.2015
FC Bayern 1:1 (0:0) FC Schalke 04
Robben 67. / Höwedes 72.
FC Bayern: Neuer – J. Boateng, Benatia, Alaba – Weiser (88. Rode), Schweinsteiger (c), Alonso, Bernat – Robben, Götze (27. Dante) – Müller (55. Lewandowski)
Schalke: Giefer (46. Wellenreuther) – Höwedes (c), Matip, Nastasić – Uchida, Fuchs – Neustädter – K.-P. Boateng (86. Barnetta), Meyer – Choupo-Moting, Sam (76. Sané)
Yellow Cards: Benatia, Weiser, Schweinsteiger / Höwedes
Red Cards: Boateng 17. / –
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