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Belgrade to blame

Reds regard Dortmund draw as point gained

Bayern’s run of eight wins on the bounce came to an end in Dortmund on Sunday, but Munich’s first Bundesliga draw since matchday five hardly spread gloom and doom in the Reds camp. “I’m very happy with the point,” coach Ottmar Hitzfeld reiterated the day after the goalless result against Borussia, the first time the leaders have failed to score this term.

“It was the right result. Both teams had chances,” commented chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after Sunday’s match in front of an 80,000 full house at the Westfalen stadium. “Taking the game as a whole, it was a fair outcome,” experienced midfielder Mark van Bommel agreed. Summarised striker Miroslav Klose: “You have days when you have to settle for a point.“

Merk’s dubious decision

Dortmund certainly rated as one of those days. Bayern were twice unlucky in the first half when both Martin Demichelis and Klose drove against the crossbar, and could easily have scored twice shortly after the restart through Klose and Luca Toni. “We should have taken the lead in the first half, or at least right at the start of the second half,” reflected Hitzfeld, “that would have made life easier for us.“

In the most controversial incident of the first period, referee Dr. Markus Merk declined to penalise Dortmund defender Philipp Degen for a professional foul on Klose. “I wouldn’t say a thing if he’d used his body and at least got a touch on the ball,” the striker remarked, “but he was three metres from the ball.” As last man, Degen could easily have seen a straight red card, but on the whole, BVB came as close as any team this season to inflicting a defeat on the league leaders.

Price paid for Belgrade

“When you look at the second half, it’s a game we should have won. We had gilt-edged chances,” Borussia coach Thomas Doll lamented afterwards. In a ten-minute spell of pressure after the hour, Doll’s men created four clear-cut openings. “We lost our shape and rode our luck,” Hitzfeld conceded. “On another day we could easily have lost,” Rummenigge agreed.

Hitzfeld pointed the finger of blame for the shaky spell at last Thursday’s UEFA Cup efforts. “The game in Belgrade cost us an incredible amount of energy, so we were only operating at about 70 percent of our potential. You’ll always come under pressure in that situation.“ The 90-minute battle on an atrocious surface in Belgrade had simply left his men heavy legged, and increasingly so as the match went on. “I could tell my team-mates had exhausted their reserves of energy in the UEFA Cup,” commented Martin Demichelis, who missed the match in Serbia with illness.

Hamburg coming up on the rails

Overall, Hitzfeld was very pleased with his men. “Compliments to my players, I’m very impressed by the way they ran themselves into the ground in Belgrade and then matched Dortmund this afternoon,” the coach enthused. The General waved away suggestions that the loss of Franck Ribery’s creative spark had caused his side not to win: “He played in Hamburg, and we didn’t win there either.“

“In the circumstances, the draw will do for this round of matches,” Hitzfeld continued. The only team in the top six to win at the weekend were the said Hamburg, who thus move into second and cut Bayern’s lead to four points. “HSV have the potential to mix it at the top,” Hitzfeld acknowledged, although the coach saw no reason for the Bavarians to be concerned, especially as the Reds have already played the other top teams, but Hamburg still have to visit Schalke and Bremen before Christmas. “We’ve had a great run and come through a number of tough fixtures, so I regard today’s draw as a point gained,“ the General concluded.