Fresh from their 7-0 demolition of Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek FC Bayern returned to domestic Bundesliga action against 1980s and early 1990s rivals Werder Bremen. Pep Guardiola’s side registered an easy 4-0 win without breaking into much of a sweat, with Polish striker Robert Lewandowski scoring a much-needed and confidence-boosting brace.
Slight knocks to Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry meant that coach Pep Guardiola already had to make two changes to the team that had started against Shakhtar, with Juan Bernat and Sebastian Rode coming into the side. Elsewhere Medhi Benatia returned to the four-man back line in place of Holger Badstuber, while ‘keeper Pepe Reina made his first Bundesliga appearance in place of the rested Manuel Neuer.
Bremen had started the Rückrunde in fine form under coach Viktor Skripnik, but right from the start they knew they would have their work cut out to keep a lid on the free-scoring Bayern attack, even without the dreaded “Robbéry”. In recent fixtures between the two sides, Bayern had registered a number of thumping wins – racking up a total of twenty-four goals in their last four meetings.
There was a slight delay after some bizarre repair work was carried out on the nets with what looked like sticky bandages, but at least we could be sure that we wouldn’t be seeing another Phantomtor. Bayern have been quick to stamp their authority over their opponents early on, but it was the home side that started slightly brighter. Levin Öztunali and Theodor Gebre Selassie sent a couple of shots wide of the target before Reina closed down the dangerous Fin Bartels and forced him into scooping the ball over the target.
Just as Bremen looked to have found a sense of balance, a moment of brilliance at the other end gave Bayern the lead. Having collected a pass from Lewandowski Thomas Müller was denied by Bremen ‘keeper Raphael Wolf, but Bavaria’s modern footballing folk hero was quick to keep the attack going. After getting back on his feet, Müller seized upon the loose ball and curled a delicious left-foot shot past Wolf into the top left-hand corner. It was yet another superb goal, capped only by another one of Müller’s strange yet endearing celebrations. A cursory air punch, followed by a him pulling a funny face that had everybody laughing.
If anyone can brighten the darkest mood, it is Thomas Müller.
Thomas Müller celebrates his opening goal in his own inimitable, understated style
From that point on there was no way back for Bremen, and it was simply a matter of when rather than if Bayern would score their second. With seconds to go in the first half the killer blow came, courtesy of David Alaba whose perfectly delivered free-kick curled sumptuously past the flying Wolf and into the top right-hand corner. The young Austrian has become something of a dead-ball specialist in recent weeks, offering just one more facet to his excellent all-round ability.
Not to be outdone, David Alaba curled a delicious free-kick up and over the Werder wall for goal number two
Bremen had fought hard, but in the face of such an opponent the remainder of the fixture their resistance was little more than an exercise in damage limitation. Rather than concentrate on their football the men in green upped the ante, and at times the game threatened to boil over as referee Thorsten Kinhöfer was forced to reach for his top pocket. There has always been a little bit of needle in games between Bayern and Bremen, and while the men from the Weser may not have been particularly competitive, they were certainly as combative as those who wore the green and white Trikot in the 1980s.
Prödl could well have been dismissed for a rough and very late challenge on Benatia, and while the referee’s decision to play the part of Solomon in issuing yellows to both men probably defused the situation, it did little to stem the outrage among us watching Bayern fans. For a while, it did feel like I was back in the late 1980s watching the likes of Uli Borowka and Gunnar Sauer at their worst.
Bremen did come close with Bartels forcing a fine tip-over from Reina, and they actually have the ball in the Bayern net only to have it rightly chalked off for a double handball. The whiff of an opposition threat was all Bayern needed to up the gears once more however, and Jérôme Boateng’s lovely ball over the top of the Bremen defence was nicely collected by the ubiquitous Müller, who in turn set up Lewandowski with a chance he couldn’t miss. It was the perfect fillip for the Pole, who was grinning from ear to ear as he followed the ball into the empty net.
An ecstatic Robert Lewandowski slides after the ball into the Werder net after scoring Bayern’s third
Talking about fillips, with eight minutes remaining the visiting crowd – and everyone watching in London – were upstanding for the appearance of Philipp Lahm, who finally made his return after more than three months out with an ankle injury. As the clock ticked into injury time the scoring was rounded off nicely, when the unselfish Müller set up Lewandowski for a slide and tap in at the far post after a neat one-two that sliced open the Bremen defence.
The game had been bitty in parts with half a dozen yellow cards, but Bayern had once again turned on the switch when it mattered to dispose of a Bremen side that had come into the game in relatively good form. Following second-placed VfL Wolfsburg’s 3-0 win over strugglers SC Freiburg the gap at the top still remains at eleven points, and next week Bayern take on third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach in an encounter than harks back to the Klassiker of the 1970s.
Man of the Match
For a lovely opening goal and his two assists, it’s a pretty easy decision this week. In the absence of both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, Thomas Müller shone like a beacon.
Bundesliga Week 25
Weserstadion, Bremen, 14.03.2015
SV Werder Bremen 0:4 (0:2) FC Bayern
– / Müller 24., Alaba 45., Lewandowski 76., 90.+1.
Bremen: Wolf – Gebre Selassie, Prödl, Vestergaard, Garcia (83. Sternberg) – Bargfrede – Fritz (c), Junuzović – Selke, Bartels (90. F. Kroos), Öztunali (63. Hajrović)
FC Bayern: Reina – Benatia, Boateng (83. Danté), Alaba – Rode, Schweinsteiger – Rafinha (85. Weiser), Bernat – Müller, Götze (82. Lahm) – Lewandowski
Yellow Cards: Prödl, Junuzović, Garcia / Rafinha, Benatia, Boateng