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Chance goes begging

'We could have opened up a gap'

It was “a great football match” (Uli Hoeneß) with “plenty of action” (Ottmar Hitzfeld), but the top of the table clash between Bayern and Werder Bremen ended all square. 1-1 was the final score, a result the Reds can live with: the three point gap over their nearest challengers is maintained, but it was no cause for celebration. “We had more of the game, clear chances and we missed a penalty - of course you can’t be happy to end up with a draw”, declared Hoeneß.

The team missed out on “making strides” along the road to winning the Bundesliga title, complained the FCB general manager. “We could have opened up a gap with a win.” Added Hitzfeld: “If you get the chance to extend your lead over your nearest rival then you have to grab that chance by the scruff of the neck. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage it.”

Luca Toni downcast

Bayern created enough opportunities to win the game and open up a six point gap over their nearest title challengers: long-distance efforts, a Miroslav Klose header, a good chance for Hamit Altintop and, naturally, Luca Toni’s penalty miss on 29 minutes. “Luca is a World Cup winner and you’d normally expect him to score from the spot”, declared Hitzfeld. Toni was understandably downcast: “I felt really confident. I’m sorry.”

The Italian’s disallowed goal in the 76th minute rounded off Bayern’s frustrating afternoon at the Allianz Arena. “That was never offside, they were level,” complained Hoeneß, “according to the rules the striker is given the benefit of the doubt. But in our case the rule seems to be: give the defender the benefit of the doubt.”

Early setback

Zé Roberto scored Bayern’s only goal in the 32nd minute. Diego had put Werder 1-0 up after only six minutes of play, but this only stung the Reds into action. 20 to 8 shots on goal, 18 to 7 crosses, 55 percent tackles won - the statistics said it all after the final whistle. “We deserved to win the game,” claimed Hitzfeld. “I think the Bremen lads should count their blessings they went home with a point,” Hoeneß declared.

Bayern’s failure to make the most of their chances left a lot to be desired but the Reds can take something positive out of the game, namely the way they put the “first-half setbacks” (Oliver Kahn) behind them. “Going one down, the offside decisions, the missed penalty - but we kept our heads up,” reasoned Kahn, but then went on to rub salt into the wound: “We do create chances but just don’t make enough of them.”

Five in title race

Of course, the fact that Bayern missed the sidelined Franck Ribéry, one of their most creative players in midfield, also played its part. “You could see he was missing, especially when we needed that moment of genius,” lamented Kahn. Hoeneß agreed with the Bayern skipper: “It’s impossible to replace a player like Franck like-for-like. If it was then we’d have spent too much on him.” But Bayern did not put the dropped points down to playing without Ribéry. “We’ve got enough internationals on the pitch who can turn it on or score goals,” stressed Hitzfeld.

But there was only the single FCB goal to celebrate on Sunday. Instead of Bayern breaking away, the title race is still touch and go as the five top teams draw closer to each other. “Now it’s not just a two or three way fight. I think one of five teams can end up champions, including Leverkusen and Hamburg, if they can put a run together,” Hoeneß observed.

Title race comes alive

If there were any winners on Sunday, it was the fans. In that sense, Hoeneß managed to extract a positive from the otherwise frustrating draw against Bremen. “If we had won today, everybody would have written about Bayern’s boring runaway season. The way it actually ended is good for the Bundesliga.”