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More records tumble

Weary FCB gear up for Xmas run-in

On Saturday night, the German capital seemed reluctant to let its Bavarian visitors leave. Despite a police escort, the team bus became stuck in traffic on its way to the airport. Take-off was then delayed again for de-icing, but it did at least allow a little more time for a period of collective reflection on a landmark weekend for the nation’s biggest club.

Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge listed a string of “fantastic successes” at Friday evening’s Annual General Meeting. “Without question, the situation at Bayern Munich is very, very good at the moment,” Rummenigge declared at the official opening of the new Berlin fan shop prior to the Bundesliga clash with Hertha BSC. “And we’re working every day to keep it that way in the future.”

That also applied to the Bayern players, who went out and did the necessary in a 1-0 victory at the venerable Olympic Stadium. “The three points are very important,” said match-winner Arjen Robben, whose exquisite curled finish on 27 minutes proved enough to seal a hard-working away win. “We’re happy,” agreed Robert Lewandowski, although the Polish hitman and his team-mates made heavy weather of the second half “and it wasn’t easy at all.”

Areas needing attention

“We had some huge chances in the first half and should have been leading by more,” commented ex-Hertha youth Jérôme Boateng, acknowledging that FCB “didn’t play well in the second half.” Boss Pep Guardiola declared himself “satisfied” with the result and his team’s performance before half-time, but the Spaniard was less pleased with the overall display: “We have to improve in many, many areas.”

“We lost our rhythm a little after the break,” reflected Robben, who always enjoys trips to Berlin: the Dutchman now has seven goals against Hertha, more than against any other club. “We ourselves know the second half wasn’t good.” The hard-working but luckless Lewandowski pointed out that Bayern “can’t win every game 3-0.” Guardiola felt there was one probable explanation: “After 70 minutes with only ten men in Manchester my players may have been a little tired.”

Chance to recover

For all that, FC Bayern were still in record-breaking form in Berlin. Munich have conceded only three goals after 13 league games, a new club record and also equal to the top mark in Bundesliga history, set by VfB Stuttgart in 2003/04. It was a good day for Franck Ribéry, who became the German top flight’s most durable French import with his 185th Bundesliga appearance. And Boateng stretched his almost unbelievable streak of 52 league games without finishing on the losing side.

Robben feels a short period of relative inactivity will help in maintaining this kind of form. “We have some tough weeks behind us, but we’ve now got a week to recover before we give it everything again for two weeks,” the winger commented, “and then we have the winter break.” Robben and Co began the regeneration process immediately after their plane landed in Munich late on Saturday evening, as Guardiola awarded his men Sunday off.