Created on 23-03-2014 at 13:30 PM
On the morning after FCB’s 24th Bundesliga win in 26 games, the thermometer read just four degrees centigrade. And while the onlookers at the Säbener Strasse training ground put up their umbrellas, the Bayern pros donned rain jackets and gloves to protect themselves from the cold. However, the change in the weather did nothing to dampen the prevailing good mood in the Bayern camp. The Reds remain on course for the league title thanks to a late burst that secured a 2-0 away win at Mainz.
Bayern had to put in a hard shift yesterday to maintain their 23-point lead at the top of the table. Arjen Robben described the task at the third-best team of the second half of the season as “difficult” before adding: “Mainz pressed the ball” and they “gave their all in the first half.” Franck Ribéry also praised the hosts who endeavoured to frustrate FCB with “aggression” and “bags of pressure”. Bayern dominated the first half with 11 to two shots on goal and 56 percent successful challenges but were unable to convert that superiority into goals as the two sides went in all square at 0-0 on 45 minutes - the first time since the Stuttgart game on 29 January 2014.
“It wasn’t easy in the first half,” admitted Bastian Schweinsteiger, who gradually stamped his authority on proceedings as the game went on. FCB received a wake-up call shortly after the restart when Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting smashed the ball against the woodwork, before Pep Guardiola’s side started to gain the upper hand. “We took control of the game in the second half,” declared Robben, who had the most efforts at goal with five shots (three on target) before his shift came to end on 73 minutes.
'A very good test'
Bayern once again put the quality of their bench to the test. Robben made way for Xherdan Shaqiri who went on to provide an assist for the crucial opening goal on 82 minutes. The Swiss starlet put in a perfect cross for Schweinsteiger to score with his head. That was the sixth headed goal for the vice-captain in his last ten strikes. “We’ve often showed we’ve got players on the bench who can make the difference,” said the provider after the game. That also applied to Mario Götze who came on as a sub and sealed the win with a routine finish four minutes from time.
“I’m just happy that we were able to win today against one of our toughest opponents of the season so far,” said Guardiola shortly after the final whistle. Eighteen league wins on the bounce is another record, although Robben was simply pleased to achieve a “deserved win”. Sporting director Matthias Sammer took a lot of positives from the ninth Bundesliga away win in succession (another record): “It was a very good test against a very good team. That's useful in terms of the tie against Manchester United.”
Bayern could achieve the first major target of the season before the Champions League quarter-finals. A victory in Berlin on Tuesday would see the treble winners lift the German league title for the 24th time in the club’s history, regardless of results elsewhere. “There’s obviously a great sense of anticipation,” said David Alaba, sounding a warning: “We know we aren’t over the line yet, so we’ll keep on working hard.” Austria’s Sports Personality of the Year did make one thing crystal clear: “We want to win the league as soon as possible.”