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Geared up for Berlin

Resolute Reds move within two wins of title

“We’ll win the league now,” Uli Hoeneß declared. The statement came over neither as a threat nor a rallying call, but simply a statement of fact as assessed by the general manager on the basis of Munich’s current form and recent results. Hoeneß can rarely have faced the media after a match in such a relaxed mood as he did at the Commerzbank Arena following Bayern’s 3-1 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Bundesliga matchday 29.

With five games remaining, Munich are a reassuring ten points clear of Werder Bremen in second, and require only six points to be mathematically certain of the title. “It means we can concentrate fully on the German Cup final and the UEFA Cup. We’re playing with tremendous resolve, and it’s great to watch,” Hoeneß enthused after Ottmar Hitzfeld’s men gave another display full of character and determination. Three days ahead of the Cup showdown with Borussia Dortmund, the Bavarians showed no signs of easing back and warmed up for Berlin in the best possible way.

Unstoppable Luca Toni

Curiously, the leaders took a while to get going on Wednesday and Eintracht were in front at half-time courtesy of Benjamin Köhler’s 29th-minute header. However, the visitors came out fighting after the break and chalked up an ultimately deserved victory through Daniel van Buyten (60) and Luca Toni (74, 85), once again outstanding for the champions-elect. The win was only Bayern’s eighth in 38 league visits to the banking metropolis.

If one man made the difference between the sides, it was Toni with his third double strike in the space of a week. The Italian now has 20 Bundesliga goals for the campaign, five more than second-highest scorer Mario Gomez of Stuttgart. “If Luca Toni had been playing for Frankfurt, it might have been a different outcome,” Hitzfeld confessed afterwards.

Unlucky Eintracht

The Bayern coach was thinking of two huge opportunities spurned by the home team either side of the interval. Ioannis Amanatidis sliced wide with the goal at his mercy on the stroke of half-time, before Olli Kahn stand-in Michael Rensing deflected a fierce Martin Fenin drive onto the crossbar with his knee shortly after the restart. “That was the turning point in the match. We had two chances to make it 2-0, but we failed,” Frankfurt boss Friedhelm Funkel fumed.

The second half certainly provided quality entertainment for the 51,500 full house as both sides went in search of the win. “It was a tactical battle before half-time, but it was end-to-end stuff after that,” Hitzfeld commented approvingly. “The players were determined not to disgrace themselves and got themselves fired up in the dressing room,” Hoeneß observed, pleased with the attitude shown by the Munich stars. “The second half was genuinely top class.“

Praise for the players

The board director was unusually effusive in his praise for the team. “This team is remarkable for the fact they can always find another gear, and never give up even after falling behind. They stay focused and keep going, and more than anything else, they keep looking for goals right to the end. Luca Toni would probably still be trying to score after 138 minutes.“ Hoeneß was particularly impressed at the quality shown by a clutch of second-string players with limited match practice behind them this season. “We’ve proved the team comprises more than just three or four individuals.“

Bayern will now travel to Berlin in confident mood, before approaching the last five league fixtures under very little pressure. “What our rivals do is less important to us now,” Hitzfeld summed up. Put another way, the only possible danger to Bayern now – complacency or lack of concentration perhaps – comes from within.