Created on 24-11-2013 at 13:00 PM
The scene is Dortmund airport at half past nine on Saturday evening. The Bayern bus pulls up and the players get out. A crowd of fans has gathered to cheer their heroes and wish them a good flight home. Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben, Mario Götze and company are much in demand for autographs, and the loyal fans clap the stars on the shoulders. The FCB party eventually heads off to board their Lufthansa charter flight. And in the wake of a prestige 3-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund, the mood on the plane is upbeat but far from euphoric.
Despite a comfortable cushion in the table of four points back to Leverkusen and seven to BVB, everyone at Germany’s biggest club knows nothing has been achieved yet: “We have to retain our ability to recognise we’re not yet perfect. We have a good lead but there’s plenty of work ahead of us. We’ve not reached our peak,“ declared Pep Guardiola. Ever the perfectionist, the head coach was not happy with everything he saw in the high intensity 90 minute contest at Signal Iduna Park. However, certain aspects of FCB’s display were top drawer.
Take for example the opening exchanges, the last ten minutes before half-time, and the second half from the 60th minute onwards, including the match-winning goals from substitute Mario Götze (66), the lively and agile Arjen Robben (85) and the tireless Thomas Müller (87). “We were really good in those spells,” the head coach said, “but overall it was incredibly difficult to attack Dortmund. Their organisation is perfect.”
Decisive extra man in midfield
Bayern also defended well, although even Jerome Boateng, Dante and Co could not entirely prevent the home side from creating chances. “No-one ever has them 100 percent under control, ourselves included,” acknowledged Müller. The visitors were grateful to Manuel Neuer for a clutch of excellent reaction saves. At the other end, the introduction of Götze and comeback kid Thiago made the attacking moves more fluid. “An extra man in midfield” was ultimately the decisive factor in an important victory over last season’s Champions League finalists, summarised Guardiola.
“It’s the weekend we wanted,” club captain Lahm said afterwards, “if we can keep going like this, it’ll be difficult for all our opponents.” However, warned Lahm, “it was on a knife edge for a long time. Both teams had good spells, but then we showed all our footballing class at the end.” Müller agreed that not everything had been perfect. “But we’re complaining about details here. We’re perfectly happy with a seven-point lead over Dortmund.“
The greed is back
Bayern’s evident footballing quality was impressively complemented on Saturday evening by endurance and fighting spirit, attributes praised by board director for sport Matthias Sammer. “We’re really hungry and greedy again,” he declared, “we’ve laid down the right marker for the weeks running up to Christmas.” Bayern have now gone a record 38 Bundesliga matches without defeat, “and we need to follow that path with great determination,” Sammer urged. Müller couldn’t agree more: “I’m not going to stand up now in November and start talking about the title.”
The stars are happy for the dreaming to be done on their behalf by the loyal fans, who offered loud and continuous support in the seething atmosphere at the packed stadium and stayed behind for many long minutes after the final whistle to serenade their heroes. “Every player in the world want to be part of a game like this,” said Thiago, visibly impressed by the magnificent setting and the 80,000 crowd. Then he too gathered up his gear and got on the bus. Sunday will be devoted to regeneration exercise, because Bayern are back on the plane on Tuesday morning as they head for the Champions League group meeting with CSKA Moscow.