December 14, 2017

Lahm Returns as Bayern Dispatches Combative Bremen

Fresh from their 7-0 demolition of Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Bayern returned to Bundesliga action against 1980s and early 1990s rival Werder Bremen and registered an easy 4-0 win, with Robert Lewandowski scoring a much-needed confidence-boosting brace.

Slight knocks to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry meant that coach Pep Guardiola already had to make two changes to the team that had started against Shakhtar, bringing Juan Bernat and Sebastian Rode into the side. Elsewhere, Medhi Benatia returned to the four-man back line in place of Holger Badstuber, and keeper Pepe Reina made his first Bundesliga appearance in place of Manuel Neuer.

Bremen had started the Rückrunde in fine form under coach Viktor Skripnik, but history told them they would have their work cut out to keep a lid on the free-scoring Bayern attack, even without the dreaded “Robbéry.” Over the prior four meetings between the two sides, Bayern had racked up a total of twenty-four goals.

After a slight delay for repair work on the nets, it was the home side that started slightly brighter. Levin Öztunali and Theodor Gebre Selassie sent a couple of shots wide before Reina closed down the dangerous Fin Bartels and forced him into scooping the ball over the target.

Just as Bremen looked to have found a sense of balance, a moment of brilliance at the other end gave Bayern the lead. Having collected a pass from Lewandowski, Thomas Müller was denied by Bremen ‘keeper Raphael Wolf, but Bavaria’s modern footballing folk hero was quick to keep the attack going. After getting back on his feet, Müller seized upon the loose ball and curled a delicious left-foot shot past Wolf into the top left-hand corner. It was yet another superb goal, capped only by another one of Müller’s strange yet endearing celebrations. A cursory air punch, followed by a him pulling a funny face that had everybody laughing.

From that point on, there was no way back for Bremen; it was simply a matter of when rather than if Bayern would score their second, and with only seconds to go in the first half, the killer blow came courtesy of David Alaba, whose perfectly delivered free-kick curled sumptuously past the flying Wolf and into the top right-hand corner. The young Austrian has become something of a dead-ball specialist in recent weeks, offering just one more facet to his excellent all-round ability.

Bremen had fought hard and were considerably more threatening than the toothless green blob that had been hit for six in the Hinrunde, but in the face of such an opponent the remainder of the fixture their resistance was little more than an exercise in damage limitation. Rather than concentrate on their football the men in green upped the ante, and at times the game threatened to boil over as referee Thorsten Kinhöfer was forced to reach for his top pocket. There has always been a little bit of needle in games between Bayern and Bremen, and while the men from the Weser may not have been particularly competitive, they were certainly as combative as those who wore the green and white Trikot in the 1980s.

Prödl could well have been dismissed for a rough and very late challenge on Benatia, and while the referee’s decision to play the part of Solomon in issuing yellows to both men probably defused the situation, it did little to stem the outrage among us watching Bayern fans. For a while, it did feel like I was back in the late 1980s watching the likes of Uli Borowka and Gunnar Sauer at their worst.

Bremen did come close with Bartels forcing a fine tip-over from Reina, and they actually have the ball in the Bayern net only to have it rightly chalked off for a double handball. The whiff of an opposition threat was all Bayern needed to up the gears once more however, and Jérôme Boateng’s lovely ball over the top of the Bremen defence was nicely collected by the ubiquitous Müller, who in turn set up Lewandowski with a chance he couldn’t miss. It was the perfect fillip for the Pole, who was grinning from ear to ear as he followed the ball into the empty net.

Talking about fillips, with eight minutes remaining the visiting crowd – and everyone watching in London – were upstanding for the appearance of Philipp Lahm, who finally made his return after more than three months out with an ankle injury. As the clock ticked into injury time the scoring was rounded off nicely, when the unselfish Müller set up Lewandowski for a slide and tap in at the far post after a neat one-two that sliced open the Bremen defence.

The game had been bitty in parts with half a dozen yellow cards, but Bayern had once again turned on the switch when it mattered to dispose of a Bremen side that had come into the game in relatively good form. Following second-placed VfL Wolfsburg’s 3-0 win over strugglers SC Freiburg the gap at the top still remains at eleven points, and next week Bayern take on third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach in an encounter than harks back to the Klassiker of the 1970s.

Man of the Match

For a lovely opening goal and his two assists, it’s a pretty easy decision this week. In the absence of both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, Thomas Müller shone like a beacon.

Player Watch

Generally speaking this was a fine team showing, with the aforementioned Müller, David Alaba, Jérôme Boateng and Robert Lewandowski the standout performers. After a number of games in which he has struggled to find his mark, Lewandowski was provided with two excellent chances on a plate by Müller, and his taking them with aplomb should give welcome confidence boost with far tougher and important matches around the corner. Pepe Reina also gets a mention for a solid first Bundesliga outing.

If there was an weak point, it would have to be Mario Götze, who apart from a few interesting moments again seemed to disappear for worryingly long spells. Much more is needed from the man who would be Bayern’s midfield king.

Bundesliga Week 25
Weserstadion, Bremen, 14.03.2015

SV Werder Bremen 0:4 (0:2) FC Bayern
– / Müller 24., Alaba 45., Lewandowski 76., 90.+1.

Bremen: Wolf – Gebre Selassie, Prödl, Vestergaard, Garcia (83. Sternberg) – Bargfrede – Fritz (c), Junuzović – Selke, Bartels (90. F. Kroos), Öztunali (63. Hajrović)

FC Bayern: Reina – Benatia, Boateng (83. Danté), Alaba – Rode, Schweinsteiger – Rafinha (85. Weiser), Bernat – Müller, Götze (82. Lahm) – Lewandowski

Yellow Cards: Prödl, Junuzović, Garcia / Rafinha, Benatia, Boateng

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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