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‘We were incredibly weary’

Reds relieved as rivals fail to capitalise

Bayern played poorly and narrowly avoided a third league defeat of term on Saturday, but still ended the weekend in upbeat spirits. A 1-1 draw in the Bavarian derby away to 1. FC Nürnberg turned out worth its weight in gold on matchday 26, as none of the Reds’ title rivals won either and the men from Munich maintained their seven-point lead in the standings.

“Given the way we dropped our guard, it’s obviously terrific we’ve actually ended up as winners,” reflected Bayern general manager Uli Hoeneß after the 50th Bundesliga battle with FCN in front of a 46,780 full house at the World Cup stadium in Nuremberg. With eight games to go, five of them at home, FCB are now in a “fantastic position,” continued Hoeneß, “it was a perfect matchday. We’re delighted nothing’s happened.“

Misfiring Reds

Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was equally pleased with the weekend results, which included draws for Hamburg and Schalke, and unexpected home defeats for Bremen and Leverkusen. “It’s turned out as well as it could do for us,” the General reasoned, before moving swiftly on to a critical analysis of his own team’s performance. “It was a turgid display. We were poor, we were very poor,” he said, singling out one particular reason for his side’s lacklustre showing: “I had the feeling many of our internationals were totally exhausted.“

Seven of the starting eleven represented their countries in midweek, “and they never got going today. Ribéry was one of the most tired players on the pitch. It was obvious we were incredibly weary from the midweek internationals.“ FCB started energetically enough and might have taken the lead through Luca Toni after just 13 seconds, “but we misfired after that. It was obvious we were lacking freshness.“

FCN’s deserved opener

Hoeneß shared the coach’s opinion. “The players are all fighting for places in their national teams and got totally stuck in on Wednesday. We saw the consequences of that today.“ Second-from-bottom Nürnberg slowly but surely cast off their initial respect for their more illustrious neighbours and took a not undeserved 44th-minute lead through Zvjezdan Misimovic.

“Their opener was still a bolt from the blue,” Hitzfeld raged, angry at “amateurish defending” which opened the way for the former Munich man’s strike: “We dozed off completely.“ Hitzfeld pulled no punches in the dressing room at the interval: “I was angry at half-time, because players can’t be putting in one or two kilometres more for their countries than for us.“ That and the introduction of Lukas Podolski gave Bayern a much more threatening look up front.

Happy ending

The reward finally came nine minutes from time in the shape of Podolski’s first Bundesliga goal in nearly a year. “It was difficult today. Nürnberg played well, they were aggressive and covered lots of ground. It was as tough as we expected, but that’s a derby for you,” remarked the goalscorer, “I hope I can keep it up now.“

Once the results from around the grounds came in, the mood in the Bayern camp perked up considerably. “In the final analysis, the result was acceptable to both sides,” Hoeneß reckoned. Hitzfeld was also happy enough with the point: “We definitely deserved the draw, so we can be satisfied with that.“