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Lessons to learn

‘Breathtaking’ win by no means flawless

Uli Hoeneß was one of the last personalities to quit the mixed zone at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday night. After dealing with a barrage of reporters’ questions, the Bayern manager found himself surrounded by a throng of Wuppertaler SV youth players. Beads of sweat from the TV lights glistened on the official’s forehead, but he simply smiled and signed autographs, posed for snaps, and beamed at the eager kids. He looked like a man thoroughly enjoying the experience of winning at the Schalke Arena for the very first time.

Furthermore, the FCB general manager had just witnessed football to gladden his heart. “In the second half, we played the way we want to see Bayern playing,” Hoeneß enthused following a 5-2 victory over third division Wuppertal. The result sends the 13-times winners through to the last eight of this season’s German Cup, and represented a successful start to the second half of the 2007-8 campaign.

Game of two halves

“We could hardly have been better in the second half,” Hoeneß continued, “at times, I thought the way we got at them down both flanks was breathtaking.” However, it had taken a few choice words from coach Ottmar Hitzfeld at half-time to galvanise his side following an unsatisfactory first period from a Bayern point of view.

“Our attitude and aggression weren’t right in the first half. I think we now know what our approach has to be, in every game and right from the start,” Oliver Kahn thundered. “We played as if we thought we were still contesting friendlies,” lamented Hoeneß. Ottmar Hitzfeld felt his side had been careless and inattentive in defence. “Before half-time, we didn’t tackle the way I want us to.“

Praise for Wuppertal

Miroslav Klose fired Bayern into the lead on 14 minutes and repeated the feat after 27 minutes, but third division north leaders Wuppertal twice equalised through Tobias Damm (26) and Mahir Saglik (29). “It wasn’t an easy situation for us,” acknowledged Hitzfeld, full of praise for the underdogs. “Wuppertal made life very difficult for us. They went right to the limit, especially in the first half.“

“Plenty of teams would have struggled to cope with Wuppertal in the first half. They ran as if their lives depended on it,” Hoeneß commented. “They were determined, willing and physically robust, but we hung too far off our men and we were careless in defence“.

Much improved after half-time

Apart from the head coach’s half-time lecture, the players themselves recognised the need for improvement. “At half-time, I sensed the team was truly determined to win,” Hoeneß revealed, “the players were firing each other up, and they played as if they meant it after that.“

Bayern dominated proceedings after the restart. Daniel van Buyten (50) and Luca Toni (53) effectively settled the issue with a rapid fire double whammy, before Hamit Altintop (88) rounded things off with a fine solo effort. “We showed character, and our concentration was unbelievable,” Hitzfeld observed. Added Hoeneß: “We played really good football the minute the whistle went for the second half. We tackled well, and Wuppertal didn’t have a chance after that.“

Next step Rostock

Bayern will now seek to reproduce their second half form in Rostock on Friday. “It was a good start, but now we need to keep going and play well for 90 minutes,” declared Philipp Lahm, immediately looking ahead to the resumption of Bundesliga hostilities. “It was good to get a really competitive match under our belts before Friday,” offered Kahn, “we’ve seen how important it is to be aggressive right from the off.“

The hard-earned victory over Wuppertal thus served as a revealing dress rehearsal for Friday’s league restart. “I’m glad we were pushed for 90 minutes. It sets us up nicely for the rest of the campaign,“ summarised Hoeneß as he finally turned on his heel and headed for the team bus.

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