Created on 02-03-2014 at 13:05 PM
There were only 28 minutes on the clock when Schalke keeper Ralf Fährmann picked the ball from the back of his net – for the fourth time. Arjen Robben danced, the Allianz Arena shook with joy - and the Schalke players trudged back towards the halfway line with their heads down. Fortunately for the Royal Blues, Bayern eased off after that and the final score of 5–1 was a shade easier to stomach. But there cannot have been a football fan in the stadium or anywhere else who did not enjoy the quality and class shown by the home side in the first 45 minutes. “We built up a real head of steam,” commented Toni Kroos.
David Alaba (3), Robben (15, 28) and Mario Mandzukic (24) scored the goals for the unstoppable Bayern express. “That was one of the best halves of football since I’ve been here. It was so high-paced. Schalke were overrun,“ declared Robben, who scored a 78th minute penalty to complete his hat-trick. Rafinha unluckily put through his own goal in the 64th minute to hand Schalke a little consolation.
Kroos, whose 146 touches of the ball were a new personal best in the Bundesliga, outlined the reasons for the scintillating first half: “We did very, very well. We attacked and almost always had possession. We want to put on a show for the fans in every match. We’re totally up for it!“ Manuel Neuer, who made two excellent saves just before half-time but was powerless to prevent the own goal, the first time Bayern have conceded since Christmas, offered a crisp analysis: “We played an excellent game.“
However, Pep Guardiola is a perfectionist and spotted a couple of flies in the ointment as always. The Spanish coach was not pleased with the period immediately after the interval. “We have to perform at our best for the full 90 minutes,” said Guardiola, “if we lose focus for just ten minutes in the Champions League we’ll have problems.”
But all in all, Munich played “great football most of the time,” commented Neuer. Mandzukic in particular could have grabbed a hatful. The Croat now has 14 goals and is second only to Robert Lewandowski in the league scoring chart, but Schalke’s excellent keeper Fährmann denied Mario several times on the day. As for the standings, the 5-1 victory means FCB’s lead is up to 20 points, with only 11 games remaining.
“It doesn’t matter when we’re declared champions. The only important thing is that we actually win the league,” commented Kroos. But that has not yet happened. “There’s still a lot at stake. We have to be prepared for the return against Arsenal and all the challenges that lie ahead,” continued the Germany international. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge joined in the chorus of voices calling for restraint and calm, although even he agreed the team is in “outstanding shape. This is without question an unbelievable season – the second in a row, incidentally.”