Created on 13-03-2008 at 00:00 AM
The Bayern players frequently had trouble with their footing on Wednesday night, slipping on the greasy Allianz Arena turf and handing possession to their opponents. The incidents were neatly symbolic of Munich’s first slip-up in this term’s UEFA Cup, a 2-1 home reverse in the last 16 return leg against RSC Anderlecht, although the aggregate victory was never in the slightest doubt after the previous week’s 5-0 victory in Brussels.
“We’re comfortably through to the quarter-finals, but I’m still a shade ticked off about losing today,” a dissatisfied Ottmar Hitzfeld admitted after the match in front of a 63,000 crowd at the Allianz Arena. “Losing at home to Anderlecht leaves a bitter taste, especially because we had the better players on the park.“
Wasteful with chances
Hitzfeld made nine changes to the side which faced Karlsruher SC last Saturday, although that was hardly noticeable in a whirlwind opening as Sosa, Ottl, Podolski & Co tore into the Belgians and created half-a-dozen presentable opportunities. Captain for the night Lucio took his chance to open the scoring on eight minutes.
“We played really well for the first 20 minutes and created all sorts of chances, but we were extremely careless at times,” commented general manager Uli Hoeneß, ”we could easily have been two or three-nil up very early on. But after winning 5-0 away from home, there wasn’t a lot riding on the second leg and it was hard for the team to stay fired up.“
Dearth of inspiration
Instead, the Bundesliga leaders suddenly found themselves pegged back to level terms when the lively Serhat Akin struck in the 20th minute. “We thought it was going to be easy. We started well but eased back, our passing was sloppy, and we made ourselves nervous,” Miroslav Klose summarised, “we were our own worst enemies.“
Hitzfeld agreed with the striker. “After taking the lead we stopped using direct passes and started needing three, four or five touches to get the ball forward. That removed the element of surprise. Our pre-match plan came a little unstuck in the first half,” the General mused, not least when young Ukrainian Aleksandr Iakovenko blasted Anderlecht in front on 36 minutes.
Second defeat of term
“Anderlecht came here with a point to prove and got stuck in,” Hoeneß said in praise of the Belgian champions, leaping to his own players’ defence after only their second defeat in 37 matches this season: “They knew not a lot could go wrong on the night and that we go to Cottbus on Saturday, so it was obvious they’d shift down a gear. It’s tough to get too worked up in the circumstances.“
Nevertheless, Hitzfeld reckoned to have picked up “important insights” from the meeting with RSCA. “It was a chance to start a match for some of the players. Several showed signs of nerves when the going got tough, and I didn’t like that.“ However, the wholesale team changes were “an exception,” the boss reassured.
First-choice stars to return
Hitzfeld will restore the likes of Oliver Kahn, Franck Ribéry, Martin Demichelis and Luca Toni to the side for Saturday’s meeting with Cottbus. The last word on midweek was left to Mark van Bommel: “Losing 2-1 after winning 5-0 isn’t good, but strange as it may sound, better to lose now than on Saturday. That’s when we can take another step towards the title.“