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Two draws in a row

Return to normality ‘not unwelcome’ at FCB

Saturday’s 1-1 draw between Bundesliga leaders Bayern and last term’s runners-up Schalke 04 differed markedly from previous meetings between the long-standing rivals. The match was relatively free of the passion and emotional heat often generated by the fixture, and in the final analysis, there was no clear winner, either literally or metaphorically.

“It was all hard graft. We couldn’t turn on the style, Schalke 04 were much too strong for that,” Bayern boss Ottmar Hitzfeld summarised, “they provided very tough opposition.“ Marcell Jansen, restored to the left of defence after injury, agreed with the coach: “Schalke are a top team, you don’t just turn up and blow them away.”

Bayern hauled back

Bayern’s second draw in a row will please the Bundesliga’s neutral observers, as the threat of a one-horse race at the top of the table appears to have receded for now. Hitzfeld’s men are still undefeated and top the standings on 11 points from five matches, but Schalke also have yet to lose and lie just four points off the lead. “We wanted to put distance between ourselves and Schalke, but we haven’t succeeded,“ Hitzfeld remarked.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Bayern camp quietly welcomed the latest turn of events, as it has served to throw a damper on what Oliver Kahn derided as “this irritating euphoria. We’ve seen again today that it won’t be a stroll, but I’ve been saying that all along. Now the frenzy will die down, and the way it’s happened is no bad thing.“

Lacking ruthless edge

In fact, the 69,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Bayern dominate the early exchanges. “We contained Schalke completely in the first half hour. The had no shots at goal for a very long time, but we created four or five chances,” Hitzfeld observed, lamenting his side’s lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.

“We were too intricate in the box, we should have tried harder to get our shots away. We actually needed more selfishness,” the 58-year-old thundered. “That’s something we lack, but we’ve lacked it since the start of the season.“ After the visitors had taken a shock 36th minute lead from Ivan Rakitic’s well-aimed drive, Miroslav Klose levelled on 54 minutes with his fourth league goal in four appearances.

Still well-placed

“Today was proof that it won’t be an easy campaign for us,” commented the goalscorer, singling out a “lack of freshness“ throughout the team as a result of the two-week international break. “The build-up was very difficult because of the international matches. It’s not ideal, and you probably fall 10 percent below your best. I think that was clear today,” Kahn agreed.

At the end of the day, the Bayern camp was satisfied enough with the draw. “It was the right result, and we’re still well-placed,” Hitzfeld declared. “We’re back to normality in the Bundesliga. We know no-one’s about to gift us anything. We’ve had our warning, and we know we’ll need to shift up a gear. We have to improve.“