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Functioning unit

Kahn: We’re approaching peak form

A Luca Toni masterclass and a rock-solid professional display by the team as a whole on Sunday saw Bayern retain top spot in the Bundesliga after 20 matches and emphatically underline their ambitions of claiming a 21st domestic title.

“We’ve sent out a very strong signal today,” captain Oliver Kahn declared following an effortless 3-0 victory away to Hannover 96, during which the keeper hardly made a save worthy of the name. “I think that was tactically one of our best matches of the season, a team performance par excellence. At no time did I think anything could go wrong.“

Stylish and commanding

The 49,000 full house at the AWD Arena saw Bayern increasingly hit their stride, dominate the match and end with a swagger. “We kept it extremely tight, prevented them creating chances, concentrated hard and played with a lot of discipline,” continued Kahn. “The way we played today was something close to optimal.“

Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was equally satisfied after his side’s seventh away win of term restored Bayern’s three-point advantage over Werder Bremen, winners at home on Saturday. “We didn’t start well and Hannover forced us onto the defensive, but we played good football after the first 20 minutes. We were well organised and very determined too.“

Comfortable clean sheet

The defensive line was certainly a great deal more solid than against Aberdeen in the UEFA Cup last week. Hannover bristled with resolve at the start on Sunday and temporarily denied the Reds any space in which to work, but the home side still failed to create any clear-cut chances whatsoever. “We were determined to keep a clean sheet,” commented Daniel van Buyten, an unyielding stand-in for the injured Martin Demichelis at centre-half.

With the hosts neutralised in attack, it was left to Luca Toni to take his total for the league season to 13 goals with a world-class hat-trick. “Whenever one man scores three goals, it’s earned by the team as a whole,” the match-winner insisted afterwards, “winning as a team is what pleases me the most.”

A functioning unit

Toni’s first Bundesliga hat-trick came about from excellent approach work by Mark van Bommel and the fast-improving Bastian Schweinsteiger, who provided two intelligent assists for the Italian. “He stamped his authority on the match,” Uli Hoeneß remarked, as the Bayern youth product continued his rehabilitation from a below-par run of form.

Hoeneß was as delighted as anyone after the win in “a very important fixture. It was only a matter of time before we began functioning as a unit. We can all see it’s gradually getting better,” the general manager argued. The coming weekend’s showdown with high-flying Hamburger SV will provide evidence of how far that process has taken root.