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Hitzfeld delighted

Record start provides valuable lessons

Ten games into the 2007-8 Bundesliga season, Bayern’s tally of eight wins, 26 points, 27 goals scored and just four conceded represents a new record at the start of a league campaign. Specifically, since the introduction of three points for a win in 1995-6, no team has amassed so many points with less than a third of the season gone. Ottmar Hitzfeld is well aware that a good start is no guarantee of title success, but the Bayern boss still came away from Saturday’s 2-1 success in Bochum in good spirits after discovering a new and positive side to his team’s character.

“What I found important was that we dealt with going a goal down and attacked them with determination and cool heads. It showed we have a certain mental strength,” Hitzfeld commented, “I wouldn’t want us to go a goal behind every time, but this was a very valuable lesson for us.“

Bad goal to concede

The lesson was learned during “a hard job of work,” as Uli Hoeneß remarked after the final whistle at the rewirpower-Stadion. VfL Bochum proved resolute and stubborn opponents, even taking the lead on 11 minutes when Dennis Grote beat Michael Rensing after letting fly from the edge of the box, although it was to prove the home side’s only chance worthy of note in the entire match. “It made me incredibly angry,” Hitzfeld grimly reflected, “we had three opportunities to stop his run.”

The phase which followed indicated the depth of mental strength in this season’s Bayern team. Despite the after-effects of international duty clearly hindering a clutch of the star players, and despite falling behind for only the second time this term, the men in red launched a carefully orchestrated barrage on the home goal. “We piled on the pressure and should have scored the first goal earlier. We perhaps should have taken the lead before half-time,” Hitzfeld reflected.

Blanks for Klose and Toni

The second half was a much tougher proposition for the visitors as Bochum pulled men back and set out their stall in defence. Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni were pursued every step of the way by a minimum of two man-markers, ultimately leading to blanks for both top strikers for the first time this season. “Then others have to do the scoring instead,” Hitzfeld pointed out.

Up stepped Franck Ribéry, back-heeling the 35th-minute equaliser himself, and brilliantly laying on the 78th-minute winner for sub Bastian Schweinsteiger. “Thank the Lord for Ribéry. He was the best man on the park,” Hitzfeld smiled. “We have players capable of single-handedly settling a match – that’s the difference from last season,” Hoeneß stated.

Hitzfeld ‘very satisfied’

Ribéry’s individual class and a tenacious display by the team as a whole ultimately swayed the match in Munich’s favour. “Bochum made life very difficult for us, but on the balance of play, we deserved the 2-1 win,” Hitzfeld reasoned. The match stats showed Bayern with 61 percent of the possession, 55 percent of their tackles won, 27 shots to Bochum’s seven, and nine corners to the home side’s two.

The league leaders thus hit the ground running after the break for internationals, came back from a goal down, and set a new record, “and that makes me very satisfied with the team at the moment,” Hitzfeld summarised. The fact that fellow title contenders Schalke dropped points with a draw in Rostock rounded off a fine weekend for the Bavarians. “It’s a real bonus,” said Hoeneß, “it’ll calm things down a lot.“