27th February 2015 marked the 115th anniversary of the foundation of FC Bayern, and the Red Dragons London gathered in force for what would turn into a memorable birthday party. The evening ended with the presentation of a special “Allianz Arena” cake and a club history quiz, but the main meal – a Friday evening match up against one-time old school rivals 1. FC Köln – helped kicked things off nicely as Bayern scored two goals in each half to stay well on course for a twenty-fifth Bundesliga title. However, despite the convincing 4-1 scoreline it was one of those games where the result doesn’t tell the real story.
Coach Pep Guardiola stuck with a four-man back line as he made two changes to the side that scored half a dozen against Paderborn. David Alaba found himself repositioned at left back as Mario Götze replaced the rested Juan Bernat, and skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger returned with Xabi Alonso switched to the bench. In what looked like a 4-1-4-1 formation Götze joined Thomas Müller in the middle of an impressive offensive unit, with “Robbéry” on the flanks and Robert Lewandowski leading the line.
The evening’s celebration started with yet another impressive choreographic display from the home fans, as a beautifully designed banner marking the club’s rich 115-year history engulfed the south stand. One could feel the the goosebumps as kickoff time approached.
The dramatic pre-match choreograpy, marking FC Bayern’s 115th anniversary
Köln had only conceded two goals in their previous five Bundesliga matches, but Bayern were quick out of the blocks and looking hungry right from the start. The pressure was all on the visitors as Die Roten notched up three corners in quick succession, and the fourth provided the opening goal after just three minutes. Arjen Robben swirled in the kick, and – perhaps fittingly given the occasion – crowd favourite Schweinsteiger rose above defender Kevin Wimmer to power the ball past ‘keeper Timo Horn.
“Fussballgott” Bastian Schweinsteiger celebrates the opening goal after just three minutes
With the visitors’ plan to keep things tight completely scuppered, Bayern continued to stream forward, passing the ball around easily with more then eighty percent of the possession. Horn did excellently to deny Robben and Lewandowski, but could do nothing to stop Franck Ribéry from doubling the lead after ten minutes. Collecting the ball at the edge of the box the Frenchman looked set to aim for the right-hand side of the net before completely outwitting the ‘keeper with a well-struck low shot into the opposite corner just inside the near post.
Having scored eight against Hamburg and six against Paderborn it looked set to turn into another goal fest, but the home side gradually started to slow things down which in turn allowed Peter Stöger’s men to gain more of a foothold. Jonas Hector smashed a free-kick effort straight at Müller after ‘keeper Manuel Neuer had been called for collecting a back pass from Jérôme Boateng, and as half-time approached the visitors gradually started to come back into the contest. As the clock ticked into added time Die Geissböcke won their first corner, and Matthias Lehmann’s perfectly cross made things easy for Nigerian Anthony Ujah to head past Neuer and halve the deficit.
The second half started much like the first with Bayern well on top and bossing the possession, but there was no quick goal to get things back on track. As the game moved towards the hour mark Köln suddenly upped the pace of their own game and within a very short space of time came close to finding an equaliser against the run of play. Twice Manuel Neuer was called into action, first denying the energetic Ujah with a fine reaction save and then keeping out substitute Marcel Risse’s low snapshot.
It was just the shot in the arm Bayern needed to get things moving again. On sixty-seven minutes Robben provided some much-needed breathing space with his seventeenth goal of the season, combining brilliantly with Ribéry before heading the ball across the helpless Horn. Neuer was once again called into action to deny Köln substitute Daniel Halfar, but with a quarter of an hour remaining Die Roten finally settled the issue. The visitors were unable to cope as the Bavarians broke quickly, with Ribéry and Robben once again in the thick of it. The Dutchman’s floating cross-cum-shot was probably heading into the goal, but Lewandowski arrived in good time at the far post to chest it in from right on the line.
Robert Lewandowski ends up in the back of the net after scoring Bayern’s fourth
Bayern could very easily have made it five by the final whistle with Robben, Alaba and Ribéry creating further opportunities, but once again the excellent Horn was able to keep the score respectable for the visitors.
Bayern’s scrappy start to the Rückrunde has now long been consigned to the memory bin, and with twenty goals in their last four matches things are clearly firing. Having scored sixty-three goals already with eleven match days still remaining, there is every possibility that Guardiola’s side could breach the three-figure mark for the first time since 1972. With second-placed VfL Wolfsburg securing a dramatic 5-3 win in Bremen on Sunday, Die Roten’s lead at the top of the table remains at eight points.
The next couple of fixtures involve opponents from Lower Saxony. In midweek Bayern host second division Eintracht Braunschweig in the third round of the DFB-Pokal, before travelling north to take on Hannover 96 at the weekend.
Man of the Match
Overall, this was an excellent team performance from FC Bayern, with the usual suspects rising to the top. Arjen Robben was all over the pitch again with one goal and two assists, his partner in crime Franck Ribéry was almost as prolific, while “Fussballgott” Bastian Schweinsteiger was dominant at the back on what was a very special day for everyone associated with the club. However, I have decided to step out of the box with my choice. With Köln looking dangerous in the early part of the second half, Manuel Neuer produced two world-class saves and showed just how valuable he is to this Bayern side.
1. Bundesliga, Week 23
Allianz Arena, München, 27.02.2015
FC Bayern 4:1 (2:1) 1. FC Köln
Schweinsteiger 3., Ribéry 10., Robben 67., Lewandowski 75. / Ujah 45.
FC Bayern: Neuer – Rafinha, Boateng, Badstuber, Alaba – Schweinsteiger (c) (78. Rode) – Robben, Müller (69. Alonso), Götze, Ribéry – Lewandowski
Köln: Horn – Brecko (c), Maroh, Wimmer, Olkowski – Vogt (72. Halfar), Lehmann, Hector, Peszko – Osako (46. Risse) – Ujah (78. Deyverson)
Yellow Cards: – / Halfar