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‘Workmanlike win’

Mario & Mario fire weary Bayern to victory

Winning was the main thing, everyone in the Bayern camp agreed following a tight but ultimately deserved 3-2 home win over enterprising Hertha Berlin. “That was one of our weaker performances, but the most important thing is that we won,” stated Jérôme Boateng. Thomas Müller felt it was “a narrow victory where things didn’t necessarily always go well, so we’re delighted it ended up in a win.” Captain Philipp Lahm delivered a terse verdict: “It was a workmanlike win.”

In the build-up to the contest, Pep Guardiola had explicitly warned his men about the promoted club from the German capital. “They’re one of the best teams we’ve played so far,” Guardiola declared after the entertaining encounter with the team in fourth. Lahm could only agree: “All credit to our opponents. Hertha played very, very well, they were extremely aggressive and they’re incredibly dangerous on the break. They’re up near the top of the table by rights.“

Luhukay’s courageous troops

Jos Luhukay’s disciplined and energetic team troubled FCB from the start. “We didn’t make the mistake of other teams who come here, sit deep and just let it all happen to them,” reasoned former Bayern keeper Thomas Kraft. A self-critical Lahm paid tribute to Hertha’s approach: “We said we’d focus hard from the start and not let our opponents get into the match. It worked very well – until the third minute.”

Striker Adrian Ramos headed the fourth-minute opener for the visitors, who created a number of decent openings in the early exchanges. “After scoring the first goal, Hertha held all the trumps, so it wasn’t easy to regroup and find our way back into the match,” explained Manuel Neuer. “There’s no doubt they were our most difficult opponents at the Allianz Arena this season.“

Touch of tiredness

It took a very long time for an FCB line-up showing only two changes to the previous match to pick up speed in the third home game of the week. On the one hand, it was due to Berlin’s good display, but also to what Lahm described as the “packed programme” of recent weeks. “You could see we were a little weary today, mentally as well as physically,” said the FCB skipper. The head coach agreed: “We weren’t very good today. The players have had a lot of games in the last two months and they’re a little tired, as we could all see.“

The reasons why the treble winners ultimately posted their eighth league win of the season and are now undefeated in their last 35 Bundesliga matches were down to morale and an utter determination to win. After losing both Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben to injury midway through the first half, the introduction of Mario Mandzukic and Mario Götze tipped the balance in favour of the home team. “We were knocked off course by Bayern’s substitutions,” reflected Luhukay, “and we weren’t determined enough in the situations where they scored their goals.”

Mario & Mario turn the match

Mandzukic headed the equaliser on the half hour and the game was deadlocked at 1-1 at the interval. Mandzukic (51) and Götze (54) struck a quick-fire double early in the second half, and although Änis Ben-Hatira pulled one back before the hour, it remained 3-2 despite the visitors’ refusal to run up the white flag. “It’s important we were able to turn the game around early in the second half and bring home the three points,” summarised Lahm. Franck Ribéry declared: “We’ve had three home games in just a week and we’ve won all three – that’s superb!”

The stars are now looking forward to the first week without a midweek fixture since late August. “We now have the time to regenerate and prepare ourselves for the next challenge away to Hoffenheim,” commented Guardiola, cancelling Sunday’s scheduled training session. “It’s nice we have a normal week again at last, with games only on Saturdays, so we can clear our heads. It’ll do the players the world of good,” observed Lahm before leaving the Allianz Arena and setting off for home.