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The look of champions

Raw desire powers Bayern to crucial win

Christian Lell’s 88th minute strike to wrap up Sunday’s victory over VfL Bochum prompted an open show of emotion from Uli Hoeneß. The general manager bear-hugged boss Ottmar Hitzfeld, hopping from one foot to the other for joy, before finally releasing him a number of seconds later. Hoeneß clearly understood that the 3-1 success on matchday 27 represented a huge stride towards a 21st German championship.

“Of course it’s not over yet,” Hoeneß pooh-poohed afterwards, brushing aside attempts to offer congratulations on the title. Bayern are a daunting nine points clear in the table, “but there’s no reason to celebrate until it’s mathematically certain,” the board director warned. “We’ve earned ourselves some breathing space, no more and no less. We can’t stop playing all of a sudden,” captain Oliver Kahn agreed.

Promising position

However, no team has ever failed to clinch the title on the back of a nine-point advantage seven games from home, and that is not the only factor in Bayern’s favour at the moment. The manner in which the men in red disposed of Bochum will hardly have supplied succour to Bayern’s rivals.

Following Mark van Bommel’s highly contentious sending-off, Bayern spent more than an hour a man down on their opponents, but the home team brushed off the shock of Mimoun Azaouagh’s early opener (4) to come from behind and win courtesy of Lucio (31), Franck Ribéry (74, pen) and Lell’s first top flight goal (88).

Crowd’s vital role

“It was a terrific performance,” Kahn said in praise of his team-mates, “the team showed the qualities you expect of champions in that kind of situation: desire, fighting spirit, determination! We actually went on to play better than we have done with eleven men recently.“ Hitzfeld was delighted with his team’s morale. “The players reacted superbly to the situation.“

Furthermore, the home crowd got behind their heroes as seldom before at the Allianz Arena, helping to make up for the one-man deficit. “The supporters were outstanding, urging and cheering us on. They were really on fire,” commented Hitzfeld, “that was one of our best games of the season, with plenty of tension, lots of emotion, and goals on top.“

Fired up for Getafe

“We were never going to win without desire and aggression. It showed how much we want to win the league,” offered Martin Demichelis, a model of commitment and resolve alongside the outstanding Lucio. “It was one of those games where we showed we can do more than simply play decent football, we’re mentally strong too,” added Kahn. “The most important thing from today is proof our morale is soaring,” Hoeneß concluded.

That will be vital in Thursday’s challenging UEFA Cup trip to Getafe, where Bayern must score to make the semi-finals after a disappointing 1-1 home draw last week. The manner of victory over Bochum could be the shot in the arm Hitzfeld’s men needed at just the right time. “We’ve turned a match on its head today and we’ll go to Spain on a roll,“ smiled Lell.