This past week has seen things crashing down all over the place at FC Bayern – from the error-riddled defeat at FC Porto through to the internal fallout resulting in and following the sudden resignation of long-time doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt. Skipper Philipp Lahm being ruled out with a bout of gastroenteritis certainly didn’t help matters, and with morale lower than it has been for a long time coach Pep Guardiola was left to pick his starting lineup from an even more depleted squad.
A challenging match against a TSG 1899 Hoffenheim side chasing a spot in the Europe League was the perfect opportunity to start putting the pieces back together, and in a tough encounter Bayern rode things out – or rather Rode things out – as they secured all three points with a workmanlike win decorated with a wonderful goal.
With Lahm not in the team and Bastian Schweinsteiger still unavailable ‘keeper Manuel Neuer took the captain’s armband, and with Jérôme Boateng on the bench ahead of the crucial midweek return clash in Porto the coach plumped for a three-man backline of Rafinha, Danté and Holger Bastuber. With Spanish duo Xabi Alonso and Thiago also on the bench youngsters Gianluca Gaudino and Mitchell Weiser joined Sebastian Rode and Juan Bernat in the four-man midfield, and up front there were no changes with Robert Lewandoski sitting in front of Mario Götze and Thomas Müller.
In front of a packed out ground in Sinsheim Bayern immediately looked to stamp the authority on their opponents, with Bernat once again providing plenty of energy out on the left wing. However the first real chance came for the home side, who should have really taken the lead after another horrific error from Danté. Once again the Brazilian was caught on the ball – nobody had any idea what he was actually trying to do – and with Anthony Modeste clean in on goal it was left up to Manuel Neuer to block the Frenchman’s low shot.
The shock of almost going behind against the run of play helped to shake things up for Guardiola’s men, and seven minutes before half time they took a deserved lead. After some good approach play and an intelligent ball from the hard-working Lewandowski, midfield dynamo Rode fashioned a wonderful shooting chance out of almost nothing, shifting the ball from his left foot to his right before curling a delicious shot past Oliver Baumann in the Hoffenheim goal and into the top right-hand corner of the net. It was almost Robbenesque.
Sebastian Rode bends the ball into the top right-hand corner of the Hoffenheim net to give Bayern the lead after thirty-eight minutes
Having taken the lead Bayern eased themselves towards half-time, and although they could have fashioned a more impressive scoreline in the second half they were never really tested by a Hoffenheim side that looked – or were made to look – nothing like their usual free-scoring selves. Markus Gisdol’s side could only watch as Bayern once again dominated the possession, and although there were opportunities to settle the contest early a combination of some weak finishing and ‘keeper Baumann kept the home side interested – in theory, at least.
There were slight concerns when Bernat was replaced at half-time by Boateng and there were a few voices raised over the introduction of Thiago with the more important match to come in midweek, but the Spaniard helped inject more energy into Bayern’s game with some sharp moment of skill. Both Thiago and Müller were denied by Baumann, and although Hoffenheim front man Kevin Volland sent a well-struck effort narrowly high and wide just after the hour mark Manuel Neuer could look back at yet another easy afternoon between the sticks.
During the closing stages it was a case of all hands to the pump for “the Hoff”. Having been denied by the crossbar earlier in the half Lewandowski should have doubled Bayern’s lead, but just as it looked as though things were going to finish with just the one goal Müller’s cross in injury time was turned into his own net in an almost impossible fashion by Hoffenheim skipper Andreas Beck. In the end the score probably flattered the home side a little, but for Bayern the mission to get things back on track had been achieved.
Following second-placed VfL Wolfsburg’s 1-1 draw at home to Schalke on the following day Bayern extended their lead at the top of the table to twelve points with five match days remaining – meaning that a win in their next league fixture against Hertha BSC should guarantee them the title – barring an impossible turnaround and a hatful of goals for the Wolves. Should Bayern win in Berlin and Wolfsburg fail to get a result from their trip to fourth-placed Mönchengladbach, the Meisterschale will be secured with a month to spare.
However, before we can even start thinking about wrapping up the Bundesliga Die Roten are back in action in what is surely the most important game of the season so far against FC Porto at the Allianz Arena, with a place in the last four of the Champions’ League at stake. Should Guardiola’s men match this weekend’s 2-0 scoreline on Tuesday, it will be enough to take them through.
Man of the Match
Solid, energetic, dynamic, and in these situations just the sort of player you want in your team. Capping off his performance with a lovely goal, midfielder Sebastian Rode was the standout player this week.
Bundesliga Week 29
Rhein-Neckar Arena, Sinsheim, 18.04.2015
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 0:2 (0:1) FC Bayern
– / Rode 38., Beck og 90.+3.
Hoffenheim: Baumann – Beck (c), Strobl, Bičakčić, Toljan (85. Schipplock) – Polanksi (69. Szalai), Rudy, Schwegler – Volland, Roberto Firmino – Modeste (69. Zuber)
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Danté, Badstuber – Weiser, Gaudino (57. Thiago), Rode, Bernat (46. Boateng) – Götze, Müller, Lewandowski (89. Pizarro)
Yellow Cards: Rudy, Beck, Volland / Müller, Danté, Rafinha
Red Cards: – / –