After a frustrating week that had started with the injury to skipper Philipp Lahm, things would end on a bright note for FC Bayern against high-flying TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, with Bastian Schweinsteiger coming off the bench to warm the soul of every fan of Die Roten everywhere. It would be yet another comfortable victory, and one that would once again belie the rapidly increasing injury problems plaguing coach Pep Guardiola.
With nearly everybody else on international duty Lahm’s injury would be something of a bitter irony, with the damage to his ankle sustained during a routine training session. The captain would be helped off the pitch and would later be seen with his leg in plaster and on crutches, and news would soon come through about his being absent for up to three months. However his surgery would go well, and we can only hope that he will be fit in time for the resumption of the league campaign after the winter break.
With Lahm on the sidelines and Schweinsteiger starting on the bench the captain’s armband would be worn by Manuel Neuer, who would be protected by a Vierekette consisting of Rafinha, Medhi Benatia, Jérôme Boateng and Juan Bernat – with Boateng shrugging off a knock and replacing Danté. With Xabi Alonso as the defensive midfield pivot, Guardiola would pick a flexible front five with the recalled Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry on the flanks alongside and behind Thomas Müller, Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski.
Even without Lahm it would be a powerful lineup, and Hoffenheim would quickly feel the force of the men in red and blue.
Markus Gisdol’s men had come back from 3-1 down to grab a point in this fixture last season, and in spite of the home side’s heavy possession the visitors would have the first real opportunity to open the scoring through Tarik Elyounoussi. It looked easier for the Norwegian international to score, but he would send a badly-timed header badly wide of the target with the goal at his mercy.
Guardiola’s men would punish the opponents for this missed chance. Hoffenheim ‘keeper Oliver Baumann would do well to deny both Müller and Lewandowski, but he would be left clutching thin air midway through the first half as the mercurial Mario Götze set the Bayern juggernaut in motion with long-distance effort that curled deliciously into the top right-hand corner. Götze would go missing for large spells of the match afterwards, but he continues produce these moments of individual brilliance.
Mario Götze’s lovely long-distance effort gets the show on the road
Having taken the lead the home side would stamp their authority on Gisdol’s side, who would look anything like a team that started the day in sixth place. Six minutes before half-time the always dangerous Robben would produce a magical chipped cross across the face of the Hoffenheim goal, and Lewandowski would have plenty of time to work himself into position to head home from close range.
As the visitors started to sit back and try to limit the damage Bayern would continue to pass the ball around neatly, but for the most part things would turn just a little flat. Lewandowski would see a shot turned wide and Robben would dance into the box and find the side netting, while at the other end the busy Kevin Volland would give Neuer his first real test of the afternoon with a well-timed looping effort before the ‘keeper pulled off a miraculous stop with his left leg to deny Hungarian Ádám Szalai.
With twelve minutes remaining there would be a massive roar from the home crowd, as Schweinsteiger – in his first competitive football match since the World Cup final in Rio more than four months earlier – would make his way off the bench to the touchline. When he he ran onto the pitch to replace Götze, even hundreds of miles away one could feel the goosebumps and one’s hair standing on end.
Schweinsteiger’s arrival would spark the Bayern engine again, and it was like he had never been away. A neat pass here and a delicate touch there… Der Fussballgott was back!
The Fussballgott is back!
With eight minutes left Robben would once again show his individual magic, dancing into the box and leaving the opposition defenders looking leaden-footed before dinking the ball delicately into the net over Baumann to score Bayern’s third. While it was a lovely goal, it would be trumped just five minutes later as the inevitable Schweinsteiger lifted the ball delightfully over a crowd of yellow shirts for fellow substitute Sebastian Rode – on for the disappointing Müller – who notched up his first goal for Bayern with a rasping right-footed shot that threatened to burn a hole in the back of the net.
The energetic Rode would be denied by the crossbar just moments later, and with Hoffenheim now starting to fall apart completely Szalai would see a straight red card for a brainless stamp on substitute Danté. Referee Peter Gagelmann would put the visitors out of their misery in blowing the final whistle as the Hungarian was trudging off the pitch, and Bayern would be able to celebrate yet another emphatic victory.
With in-form VfL Wolfsburg unable to complete a comeback from three goals down against Schalke 04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach collapsing to a surprise 3-1 defeat at home to struggling Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern would extend their lead at the top of the Bundesliga standings. With their closest rivals slipping up, Bayern would finish the weekend seven points clear.
Next up, Manchester City – and the second Red Dragons London tour of the season!
Bundesliga Week 12
Allianz Arena, München, 22.11.2014
FC Bayern 4:0 (2:0) TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Götze 22., Lewandowski 69., Robben 82., Rode 87. / –
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Benatia, Boateng (73. Danté), Bernat – Alonso – Robben, Ribéry – Müller (59. Rode), Götze (78. Schweinsteiger), Lewandowski
Hoffenheim: Baumann – Strobl, Süle, Bičakčić, Beck (c) – Schwegler – Rudy – Elyounoussi (86. J.-S. Kim) – Firmino – Volland (71. Schipplock) – Modeste (71. Szalai)
Yellow Cards: Boateng, Alonso / Schwegler, Volland
Red Cards: – / Szalai