The winter break could not have come any sooner for injury-ravaged FC Bayern, but despite having ten players out through injury or illness and four youngsters on the bench they would complete an excellent Hinrunde with a hard-fought 2-1 win against an energetic FSV Mainz 05. With the game all set to finish one apiece, Arjen Robben would score right at the death to take Bayern to a record forty-five points at the half-way stage of the Bundesliga campaign – surpassing their previous mark of forty-three.
Coach Pep Guardiola would make three changes to the stating eleven that had seen off SC Freiburg in midweek, with Jérôme Boateng replacing Medhi Benatia, Danish teenager Pierre-Emile Højbjerg coming in for Robert Lewandowski and Xabi Alonso making way for returning skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger. The players on Bayern’s bench would have a total of 382 Bundesliga appearances between them – with 375 for the fit-again Claudio Pizarro.
On a damp and mild Friday evening at a packed Coface Arena the home side would start energetically and with plenty of purpose, playing a strong pressing game that at the beginning at least would put the depleted visitors on the back foot. With just four minutes on the clock Argentinian Pablo de Blasis would have the ball in the back of the net, but the goal would correctly be ruled out for offside.
Bayern would slowly start to come back into the contest and on nineteen minutes looked to have opened the scoring through Arjen Robben, but like their opponents the joy would be short-lived as the referee’s assistant raised his flag. This time however the decision was less clear cut, as Robben looked to be level with the last defender as he collected the ball before beating ‘keeper Loris Karius.
Bayern should have been in front, but just two minutes later would concede their first goal in the league since the beginning of November. A misplaced pass from Højbjerg would leave the Bayern defence in complete disarray, allowing Japanese international Shinji Okazaki to send in a cross for Colombian Elkin Soto. Soto’s low shot at the far post would slip between the legs of Manuel Neuer, leaving the Bayern ‘keeper to express his clear disappointment at conceding what was for him a very soft goal.
As if irked by their opponents’ cheeky impertinence, Die Roten were level inside three minutes. Having won a free-kick some twenty yards from goal, Schweinsteiger would step up and deliver the sweetest of finishes to score his first goal of an injury-ravaged season. The skipper’s right-footed effort would curl unerringly to the right of the flying Karius, smashing off the inside of the post before nestling in the back of the net.
Mainz would continue to press in the remaining twenty or so minutes before half-time, but Guardiola’s men would now have the measure of the opponents. After a number of easy Bundesliga games, finally the defending champions were being given a thorough test.
The second half would see both teams play some excellent football, but largely cancel each other out. There would be plenty of half-chances at both ends, with Mainz’s Germany Under-21 international Yunus Malli testing Neuer and both Robben and Franck Ribéry going close for Bayern. Robben would again be the Bavarians’ most dangerous player, weaving his usual magic down the right and through the middle of the pitch as defenders tried their best to stop him. As Bayern slowly started to turn the screw, Karius would react brilliantly to deny Højbjerg.
As the clock crept towards the ninety minute mark it looked as though Kasper Hjulmand’s side would claim a share of the points – something that on balance they probably deserved – a pass from Korean Park Joo Ho would be seized up on by Ribery. Breaking down the left the Frenchman would find Juan Bernat, and with the opposition defence at sixes and sevens the young Spanish international would roll the ball into space for the advancing Robben. With a stroke of his rarely-used right foot, the Dutchman would execute the perfect finish.
The win would take Bayern fourteen points clear of VfL Wolfsburg at the top of the table, though the Wolves’ would pull off a similar come-from-behind trick against 1. FC Köln to reduce the gap to eleven points. In what will surely be an exciting start to the Rückrunde at the end of January, Wolfsburg entertain Bayern at the Volkswagen Arena.
Originally published on the website of the Red Dragons London, the United Kingdom’s premier FC Bayern München fan club
Bundesliga Week 17
Coface Arena, Mainz, 19.12.2014
1. FSV Mainz 05 1:2 (1:1) FC Bayern
Soto 21. / Schweinsteiger 24., Robben 90.
Mainz: Karius – Brosinski, Jara, Wollscheid, J.-H. Park – Geis (c), Soto – de Blasis (81. Pflücke), Malli (87. Slišković), Koo (78. Junior Diaz) – Okazaki
FC Bayern: Neuer – Rafinha, Boateng, Danté, Bernat – Højbjerg, Schweinsteiger (c) – Robben, Götze (77. Pizarro), Ribery (90.+2. Weiser) – Müller
Yellow Cards: Soto, Koo / –
Header photo courtesy of fox.com
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