FC Bayern continued their steady progress towards a third successive DFB-Pokal with a straightforward two-goal Pflichtsieg over second division Eintracht Braunschweig at the Allianz Arena. While the overall display against a highly defensive opponent provided plenty of missed opportunities and occasionally ventured into tedium, the two goals were right out of the top drawer.
Coach Pep Guardiola made a couple of changes from the eleven that had lined up the previous Friday against 1. FC Köln, with Danté returning to the back four in place of the rested Holger Badstuber and Xabi Alonso coming in for Thomas Müller to join skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger in the defensive midfield.
With Polish striker Robert Lewandowski leading the line in front of wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry with playmaker Mario Götze in the middle, there was a more traditional 4-2-3-1 look to the Startelf.
In front of a capacity 75,000 crowd Bayern quickly established themselves and took control of the possession, with their opponents prepared to sit back and soak up the pressure. Having seen Bayern tear their last three opponents apart and score eighteen goals in the progress, Braunschweig coach Thorsten Lieberknecht was determined to see his side try to stem the tide by parking what was a big bus in a black Braunschweig Auswärtstrikot.
Unable to unlock the opposition defence, the first half was little more than an exercise in frustration for Die Roten, with moves being unnecessarily overcomplicated and more than the odd pass going astray. A well-marked Arjen Robben sent a shot wide early on, but the only real chances – and half-chances at that – came the way of Rafinha. Ribéry warmed the gloves of Braunschweig’s Polish ‘keeper Rafał Gikiewicz, and in a rare foray into the Bayern half the Lions’ South Korean Under-20 international Ryu Seung-woo found the side netting.
As half-time approached it looked as though both sides would head into the dressing room level, but a slightly soft challenge by Braunschweig’s Mirko Boland on Robben saw referee Dr. Jochen Drees signal for a foul some twenty-five yards out. David Alaba had scored a spectacular free-kick against VfB Stuttgart a few weeks before, but this effort for the young Austrian was arguably better as it curled wickedly to Giliewicz’s left before crashing off the bottom of the crossbar and into the back of the net.
David Alaba strikes a pose as he lashes in a delicious free-kick just before half-time to give Bayern the lead
From that point on there was only going to be one winner, but as in the first half Bayern continued to huff and puff against opponents that by this time appeared to have decided on keeping the score down than winning the game. Any lingering doubts were quelled three minutes short of the hour mark as Götze collected Robben’s pass just outside the opposition before dancing Messi-style past three defenders and coolly stroking the ball past the helpless Gikiewicz.
Mario Götze dances through the Braunschweig defence to complete the win with a lovely individual goal
There were a few more half-chances as the game drew to a close, but perhaps the biggest incident took place in the closing stages as Danté suffered another brain lapse with a needless and frankly gormless two footed challenge. The fact that he got to the ball first before taking out his opponent probably saved him from a straight red card, though on another day the referee might have been tempted to show the Brazilian a second Gelb for the unnecessary dissent that followed.
In the context of Bayern’s recent results a 2-0 win over a team sitting in sixth place in the 2. Bundesliga was probably a little disappointing to those expecting a Torrausch, but given Braunschweig’s well-drilled and disciplined performance they probably deserved to come away from the Allianz with what was in real terms a pretty good result. They had certainly put a number of top flight teams to shame.
For Bayern, it was a simple case of job done – no more, no less. Workmanlike, with two flashes of style and genius. Up front, things were slightly flat, no doubt induced by their opponents’ tactics and a resulting lack of urgency. Robben had a rare quiet evening, an otherwise ordinary showing from Götze was given some sheen with his lovely solo goal, and Robert Lewandowski was worryingly absent a lot of the time as he continues in his struggle to convince the critics.
Perhaps the biggest talking point however was the much criticised Alonso-Schweinsteiger defensive midfield partnership, which again failed to fire. Alonso in particular was somewhat error prone, and is far from the player who arrived in Munich to much media fanfare. The coach seems determined to keep employing this combination as part of his rotation policy, and it will only be a matter of time before things really come unstuck.
With their place in the cup quarter-finals safely in the bag, Bayern next take to the field in the Bundesliga against Braunschweig’s bitter rivals Hannover 96.
Man of the Match
In a game that was largely dry and free of incident or spark, there were very few standout performances. For his excellent overall play capped off with his spectacular free-kick, David Alaba gets the nod.
DFB-Pokal Third Round
Allianz Arena, München, 04.03.2015
FC Bayern 2:0 (1:0) Eintracht Braunschweig
Alaba 45., Götze 57. / –
FC Bayern: Neuer – Rafinha, Boateng, Danté, Alaba – Alonso, Schweinsteiger (77. Rode) – Robben (81. Müller), Götze, Ribéry (62. Bernat) – Lewandowski
Braunschweig: Gikiewicz – Kessel, Correia, Decarli, Reichel (c) – Sauer, Boland (77. Khelifi) – Hedenstad, Omladič (68. Düker), Zuck – Ryu
Yellow Cards: Schweinsteiger, Danté / Kessel, Sauer