After the gruelling DFB-Pokal quarter-final against Bayer Leverkusen earlier in the week, a depleted FC Bayern resumed their Bundesliga campaign with a professional and highly competent 3-0 win over mid-table Eintracht Frankfurt. The injury problems may be bad and Bayern may have had only four fit substitutes on the bench, but it was more than enough to overcome a opponent lacking in both spirit and imagination.
The game in midweek had seen Medhi Benatia join the long list of players on the sidelines, with the Moroccan international succumbing to muscle injury in what has been an injury-ravaged debut season in Munich. With Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Alaba, Arjen Robben, Javi Martínez already on the sidelines and Franck Ribéry not quite fit for a comeback it was already going to be a tough against a Frankfurt side boasting the league’s third-best goalscoring record, and things were made even worse just before kick-off when Jérôme Boateng was withdrawn as a precautionary measure. On the upside, Frankfurt would be without their Bundesliga-leading goalscorer Alexander Meier.
This left just four men on the bench for Pep Guardiola’s side – Holger Badstuber, Gianluca Gaudino, Sebastian Rode and the rested Manuel Neuer.
With Neuer taking the day off Spaniard Pepe Reina once again started between the sticks, protected by a makeshift back four of Mitchell Weiser, Rafinha, Danté and Juan Bernat. With Xabi Alonso providing support just in front of the Viererkette and skipper Philipp Lahm partnering Thiago in the centre of the pitch, striker Robert Lewandowski was joined by Thomas Müller and Mario Götze up top. It was more than a special day for Thiago, who celebrated his twenty-fourth birthday with his first Bundesliga start in over a year.
Bayern started slowly, but right from the start the Spanish youngster showed just what the crowd at the Allianz have been missing for so long. Orchestrating things nicely in the middle of the park, Thiago played like he had been there for ever, and very quickly the cobbled-together formation started to come together.
In the midst of the injury crisis one player has more than answered the call to up his game, and actually seems to have profited most from the enforced tactical changes in recent weeks. Robert Lewandowski has looked increasingly dangerous in front of goal playing a more orthodox front-man role and has started to find the back of the net with more regularity, but after fifteen minutes the Munich crowd would finally get to see the Polish hitman at his best. After calmly collecting Müller’s pass Lewandoski’s first touch was sublime as he flicked the ball over his shoulder, but the second was even more spectacular as he spun tightly before sending a thunderous right-footed volley past Frankfurt ‘keeper Kevin Trapp and into the top left-hand corner. Replays would later show Lewandowski to be marginally offside as he received Müller’s pass, but it was just the break he and Bayern needed.
Robert Lewandowski celebrates his spectacular opening goal after a quarter of an hour at the Allianz Arena
From that point on there was only going to be one winner as Bayern switched through the gears in looking for more. Trapp was kept busy to deny both Lewandowski and Müller as Bayern threatened to tear the Eagles apart feather by feather, and Bayern looked to have scored a second goal just before the break only to be flagged offside. Given the slight controversy over Lewandowski’s opener, there was arguably a sense of karma at the decision when replays showed that Frankfurt’s Japanese international Makoto Hasebe had got the final touch through to Müller.
Bayern could have easily had things wrapped up by half-time, and the second half saw more of the same as Frankfurt rarely threatened. The visitors were clearly missing top scorer Meier, and although Paraguayan international and well-known Bundesliga journeyman Nelson Valdez had a few shots at the Bayern goal ‘keeper Reina was hardly ever threatened.
Six minutes past the hour the second goal for Die Roten finally arrived, with Lewandowski on hand to head home after a Götze effort had been spectacularly blocked by the busy Hasabe. The home crowd could relax and enjoy the remainder of what had turned into a surprisingly gentle afternoon, and Müller got in on the act with a scarcely credible finish from the tightest of angles eight minutes from time. Lewandowski meanwhile came close to capping off a fine match with a hat-trick, first being denied by the woodwork with Trapp completely beaten, stabbing a shot narrowly wide and then having the ball nicked from his toe by Bastian Oczipka just before the final whistle.
Thomas Müller scores Bayern’s third from the tightest of angles, steering the ball between defender Alexander Madlung and the near post
At the start nobody could have predicted just how easy this game would be, but here was a real illustration of Bayern’s strength and depth and flexibility in the face of adversity. The fact that the scoreline actually flattered their opponents was telling: it could easily have been half a dozen or more. Injury crisis? What injury crisis?
The three points takes Bayern to seventy from their twenty-eight games, and with second-placed Wolfsburg also winning at the weekend the Bavarians’ lead remains at ten points. After taking on Porto in midweek Bayern continue their busy April with a trip to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, who will be keen to get their mission to secure a Europa League place back on track after a 3-2 defeat in Köln.
Man of the Match
In what was a fantastic team performance, everybody played their part. Both Thiago and Mario Götze had a great game and Thomas Müller was, well, Thomas Müller, but one man again stood out from the crowd. Finally able to play as a dedicated striker, Robert Lewandowski is just getting better and better. In fact, it is he has ever looked in an FC Bayern Trikot – perfect timing ahead of the crucial Champions’ League quarter-final tie against FC Porto. The Pole finished the game with a fine brace including one of the contenders for goal of the season, but could easily have scored a couple more.
Bundesliga Week 28
Allianz Arena, München, 11.04.2015
FC Bayern 3:0 (1:0) Eintracht Frankfurt
Lewandowski 15., 66., Müller 82. / –
FC Bayern: Reina – Weiser, Rafinha (84. Badstuber), Danté, Bernat – Alonso – Lahm (c) (79. Gaudino), Thiago (69. Rode) – Müller, Lewandowski, Götze
Frankfurt: Trapp (c) – Chandler, Anderson (73. Ignjovski), Madlung, Oczipka – Hasebe – Aigner (71. Inui), Stendera, Kittel, Seferović – Valdez (71. Piazon)
Yellow Cards: Danté / Madlung, Stendera, Ignjovski