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Morale-booster

Blend of quality and effort earns the points

In terms of the end product, Bayern’s trip to Hoffenheim on Saturday was a complete success: the Reds maintained their winning run, became joint holders of a 30-year-old record, and recovered top spot in the Bundesliga. The champions defeated the home team 2-1, equalling Hamburg’s achievement of 36 league games without defeat. FCB can claim the record for their own if they do not lose to Bavarian rivals FC Augsburg at the Allianz Arena next Saturday.

“We wanted to remain top of the standings, and we’ve succeeded. And we’ve equalled a record most people thought would stand for all time. We’ll see if we can extend it over the coming weeks,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after the treble winners’ ninth league victory of term. “At the end of the day, we can be pleased we’ve gone on and won it 2-1.”

Typically tough Hoffenheim

However, just as in previous meetings with Hoffenheim, Bayern had their work cut out on Saturday in front of a capacity 30,150 crowd at Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena. “As we’ve seen often enough in the past, our results here have always been tight,” commented Rummenigge, offering a terse summary: “It was very hard going.”

Despite FCB starting the match briskly and creating a handful of decent half-chances, the hosts took the lead with their first shot at goal. The situation arose from a mistake by Manuel Neuer, who was quick to acknowledge his error: “I almost threw it into the net behind me, I don’t know how it can be happening. I handed it to TSG on a plate,” the keeper said. Eighteen-year-old centre back Niklas Süle gleefully accepted the 34th-minute gift to open his Bundesliga account and hand the home team a shock lead.

Fighting spirit and tenacity

“Fortunately this team has the quality to come back from setbacks like this,” observed Rummenigge, as Pep Guardiola’s men equalised just five minutes later when Mario Mandzukic took his total for the season to eight. “We were able to put the score right immediately,” remarked club captain Philipp Lahm. After a spell of increasing FCB pressure in the second half, Thomas Müller put away the winning goal with 15 minutes remaining against what Lahm described as “good and dangerous opponents.”

“We came back well after falling behind, we showed plenty of morale, we were tenacious and we battled away,” reasoned Neuer. A second workmanlike victory within a week was also to Lahm’s liking: “We had to work very hard indeed after conceding the opening goal, and it’s good to see the team is capable of hard work. But we still dominated for long spells, we had the better of the chances, and we ultimately deserved the win.”

Coach Guardiola was less satisfied. “We had a little bit of luck today. It wasn’t our best performance, but we’ve won. Not everything was perfect, and we’ll need to correct the way we’re playing,” declared the Spaniard as he looked ahead to forthcoming meetings with Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday and Augsburg next Saturday. “But if we’re to finish as champions, we have to improve. And we will improve,” Guardiola concluded.

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