After the defeat in midweek against Manchester City – their first since the pre-season Super Cup in August – FC Bayern returned to Bundesliga action where next year’s Champions’ League final will be held – the Olympiastadion in Berlin. Although struggling for form in the bottom half of the table, home side Hertha BSC would offer enough resistance to ensure that Pep Guardiola’s side returned to Munich knowing that their three points had been hard-fought and well-earned.
The Bayern coach made a number of changes to the eleven that had started in Manchester, with Danté replacing Medhi Benatia and Mario Götze and Thomas Müller returning to the midfield in place of Sebastian Rode and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. Hertha coach Jos Luhukay meanwhile retained the same team that had started the previous week in Köln as they looked to climb away from the danger zone.
The game began in all-to-familiar fashion on what was a chilly afternoon in the German capital, with the visitors immediately gaining control of the ball with their opponents assuming a more defensive approach. Müller created an opening for Robert Lewandowski with only two minutes gone only for the Polish striker to put the bar over the target, and the Berlin team could only stand and watch as Bayern racked up possession figures of close to eighty percent.
As Bayern set up camp in the Berlin half and pressed up the field an opening goal would be a matter of when rather than if, and on twenty-seven minutes the men in black finally unlocked the door. Götze and Müller combined nicely to find Arjen Robben lurking just outside the penalty area, and having collected Müller’s smart backheeled pass there was a sense of inevitability as the Dutchman skipped inside before launching a trade-mark left-footed effort. Former Bayern ‘keeper Thomas Kraft had no chance as the ball flew past him into the top left-hand corner.
Arjen Robben celebrates what would prove to be Bayern’s winning goal in a chilly Berlin
There were more opportunities as Die Roten looked to up the ante before the break, but that elusive second goal wouldn’t come. Juan Bernat saw his shot narrowly deflected narrowly over the target by Jens Hegeler, while Müller scuffed an effort straight at Kraft and a Lewandowski effort skidded narrowly wide.
It is said that football is a game of two halves, and so it would prove when the teams returned for the second forty-five minutes. Within three minutes of the restart Hegeler sent a shot wide when it looked easier to score, and despite their dominance in the first half if was clear that Bayern couldn’t afford to rest on their laurels.
As Bayern switched down a gear the home side were a lot bolder in their approach, and a couple of positive substitutions just after the hour mark gave the majority of the 76,197 crowd plenty to cheer about. Manuel Neuer just about managed to hold on to a long-distance thunderbolt from Brazilian Ronny, and Japanese international Hajime Hosogai actually had the ball in the Bayern net only to have it correctly ruled out for offside.
With the hitherto toothless Berliners threatening to grab a share of the points Bayern flicked the power switch again, but were still unable to make the game safe. The final ten minutes saw chances for both sides, with Lewandowski twice denied by the excellent Kraft and German-born US international John Anthony Brooks blasting high over the target from close range at the other end.
In a game that had been for the most part slightly tedious for the supporters that had made their way up from Munich, a number of bright moments were provided by Neuer, whose antics once again started doing the rounds on the Internet. Not content to merely step out of his area and find a colleague with a well-timed pass, Bayern’s sweeper-keeper would show off his heading skills. It is surely only a matter of time before he steps up for a free-kick or corner in the opposition half and buries one in the back of the net.
It had been a spirited second half from Luhukay’s men, and in a season where victories have come all too easily for Bayern this had been a good hard test. The final whistle would secure three more points, enough to maintain the Bavarians’ seven point advantage at the top of the league ahead of VfL Wolfsburg.
Bundesliga Week 13
Olympiastadion, Berlin, 29.11.2014
Hertha BSC 0:1 (0:1) FC Bayern
– / Robben 27.
Berlin: Kraft – Ndjeng, Hegeler, Brooks, Schulz – Hosogai, Skjelbred (c) – Beerens, Stocker (76. Haraguchi), Ben-Hatira (62. Kalou) – Schieber (61. Ronny)
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Boateng, Danté, Bernat – Alonso – Götze (66. Rode), Ribéry – Robben – Müller (80. Schweinsteiger), Lewandowski
Yellow Cards: Hosogai / –