Created on 31-08-2014 at 12:00 PM
The FC Bayern players wore pensive looks on Saturday evening as they made their way back to the team bus following the 1-1 draw at Schalke. “We’re certainly a little down,” acknowledged Mario Götze, “we could definitely have come away with more.” The visitors began the top game on Matchday 2 in breathtakingly impressive style. At the post-match press conference, Pep Guardiola even spoke of the “best 30 minutes in the last six months”. But, the coach reflected, “we lost control after that.”
As a result, Bayern’s remarkable run of seven straight wins over Schalke came to an end and the Reds had to be satisfied with a single point. With Friday signing Xabi Alonso pulling the strings from the off, Robert Lewandowski opened his Bundesliga account for FCB after ten minutes and the half-time lead was more than deserved. But Munich were less effective after the break and Schalke’s World Cup winner Benedikt Höwedes equalised on 62 minutes when the visitors failed to deal with a free-kick into the box.
The goal was controversial in the extreme, as Höwedes forced the ball over the line with his hand, albeit unintentionally. The post-match opinions were predictably divided. The Schalke camp felt it was a perfectly good goal, but Manuel Neuer remained convinced of the opposite: “If the ball goes into the net off a hand, I call it handball.” Despite FCB’s protests the goal was given, and although the visitors launched a late onslaught in search of a winner, there were no further clear-cut chances.
International break ‘can’t hurt’
“You can see the quality we have in the team and the football we’re capable of even at this early stage of the season,” commented Neuer, “but 25 good minutes aren’t enough to win here at Schalke.” Captain Philipp Lahm felt he and his team lost possession too cheaply after the strong opening, “and that’s not typical for us.” Guardiola tended to agree: “Overall we didn’t have enough of the ball and had to run harder as a result.”
However, the evening yielded plenty of positives too. The only training Xabi Alonso had done with his new team-mates prior to kick-off was a light shakedown in the morning, but the Spaniard instantly slotted in to the role in front of the back four. On the ground where he once scored his first Bundesliga goal for Dortmund, Lewandowski opened his league account for Bayern. Jérôme Boateng and Holger Badstuber were a rock-solid centre-back pairing. And new signing Sebastian Rode also showed plenty of class, providing the assist for his side’s goal.
So FCB have four points from the first two matches, “and we have to live with it,” commented Lahm, “it’s a reasonable start to the season.” The league now takes two weeks off for an international break. “That certainly can’t hurt,” said Lahm, “everyone keeps forgetting how many injured players we have – and not just any old players, these are big-name players.” So a break is a good thing, “but after that we need to get back into the rhythm,” Guardiola concluded.