With the season approaching the winter break FC Bayern travelled a short distance up the road to take on local rivals FC Augsburg, and in a match that had been tight and well-contested for the best part of an hour the champions were finally able break the shackles to collect three more points – and secure the unofficial title of Herbstmeister – with four excellent goals in the space of of thirteen minutes.
Having started with a number of fringe players against CSKA Moscow in midweek, with coach Pep Guardiola picking a stronger-looking line up against the team sitting in third place in the Bundesliga. Medhi Benatia rejoined the defensive Viererkette in place of Danté, while Rafinha, Xabi Alonso, Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski returning in place of Gianluca Gaudino, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Mario Götze and Thomas Müller.
Bastian Schweinsteiger again took the captain’s armband, getting plenty of people talking with his starting alongside Spaniard Xabi Alonso – for many, a defensive midfield dream duo.
Augsburg had surprised many this season with their disciplined play and energetic pressing tactics, and the Bayern lineup suggested that the coach was going to be taking few chances against the team that had broken Die Roten’s long unbeaten Bundesliga record the previous season. In front of a packed and passionate SGL Arena with a crowd of just over thirty-thousand, the atmosphere was perfect for what promised to be a competitive Bavarian derby between the reigning champions and the side coached by Markus Weinzierl, a former Bayern youth player in the late 1990s.
Bayern started the game strongly as expected, but Die Fuggerstädter were more than a match for them with their high pressing game. There was little to threaten FCA’s veteran ‘keeper Alex Manninger early on, and the men from Munich were able to boss the possession without producing any real openings. As the game approached the half-hour mark things started to loosen up a bit in midfield, but even then the opportunities were fleeting. Skipper Schweinsteiger warmed Manninger’s gloves with a header and Sebastian Rode sent a shot fizzing over the crossbar, while at the other end the home side failed to capitalise on a fast break threatened to open up the Bayern defence.
While Bayern were the more adventurous side the 0-0 score at half-time was probably fair, and Augsburg were looking everything like a team that had worked their way up into top three in the league. But with their game being just a little one dimensional the consensus among most Bayern fans was that one goal could possibly open the floodgates.
The opening ten minutes of the second half saw the visitors switch up a gear, and the chances soon started to come for the men in black. Alonso tested Manninger with a headed effort and Ribéry forced the former Austrian international into to a sharp save, but just moments later the Frenchman spurned a chance that on any other day he would have buried. Having been put free into space, Ribéry would slip the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.
The disappointment would not last long however. A well directed free-kick from out on the left from Ribéry would find the head of Medhi Benatia, who with his back towards goal twisted and directed the ball past Manninger and into the right-hand side of the net. Despite his smooth movement in the air it is unlikely that the Moroccan knew much about it – not that he or anyone else associated with FC Bayern really cared. The Moroccan central defender’s first Bundesliga goal had finally opened the door, and with it set things up nicely for a spell of devastating football.
Medhi Benatia gets in amongst the Augsburg defence to score his first Bundesliga goal for FC Bayern, opening the floodgates
Augsburg had little time to recover before Bayern hit their second, which came from a far more familiar source. Picking the ball up just outside the box, Robben once again showed off those fast dancing feet before unleashing a stunning curling shot that pinged off the inside of the far post with Manninger left rooted to the spot. In the space of just two minutes the life had been sucked out of the home team, though their excellent fans still remained in good voice.
As the game approached the final twenty minutes Bayern continued to pass the ball around nicely and press forward, and out of almost nowhere scored a third. Finding space outside the penalty area, Lewandowski set his sights on the bottom left-hand corner of the Augsburg net – drilling a firm low shot that beat the outstretched right hand of the diving Manninger. Augsburg were now struggling to keep their shape, and just three minutes later Robben scored his second and Bayern’s fourth. Skipping inside to the edge of the box, the Dutch winger send a low rasping shot into the bottom right-hand corner – wrong-footing the unfortunate ‘keeper who must have been half-expecting another curler into the opposite side of the goal.
Robert Lewandowski celebrates Bayern’s third goal with two-goal hero Arjen Robben
It was now a case of making a few late changes and seeing things out, but Bayern would still have enough time to create more decent chances to make it five before the final whistle. Lewandowski saw a shot deflected narrowly wide, and Thomas Müller – on for a thirteen minute cameo in place of the excellent Robben – had an effort cleared off the line.
While the 4-0 result was far from flattering given Bayern’s possession and dominance – particularly in the second half – it was also slightly harsh on an Augsburg side that had looked good value for a point until just before the hour mark.
With none of the other top five teams winning and second-placed VfL Wolfsburg stumbling to a 1-1 draw at home to SC Paderborn, Bayern stretch their lead at the top to nine points, with just two match days remaining until the winter break. Bayern’s Hinrunde ends with an “Englischer Woche”, which sees a home fixture against SC Freiburg in midweek before the final match of 2014 followed by a visit to FSV Mainz 05.
Bundesliga Week 15
SGL Arena, Augsburg, 13.12.2014
FC Augsburg 0:4 (0:0) FC Bayern
– / Benatia 58., Robben 60., 71., Lewandowski 68.
Augsburg: Manninger – Verhaegh (c), Hong, Klavan, Baba – Baier – Feulner – Bobadilla, Halil Altintop (73. Kohr), To. Werner (70. Esswein) – Djurdjić (64. Mölders)
FC Bayern: Neuer – Rafinha, Benatia, Boateng, Bernat – Alonso (74. Götze) – Rode, Schweinsteiger (c) (72. Højbjerg) – Ribéry – Robben (77. Müller), Lewandowski
Yellow Cards: – / –