No let-up as super Bayern roar on
There were only 65 hours between the final whistle in the Champions League Round of 16 second leg against Shakhtar Donetsk and kick-off in the north v south Bundesliga classic away to Bremen. The risk of physical and metal tiredness was high, but Bayern coped with the problem "sensationally," as captain Philipp Lahm stated. It only took a few minutes for the Reds to shake off any weariness, and by the end of the afternoon FCB were celebrating a richly-deserved 4-0 victory at the Weserstadion. "It was one of those days when I'm so proud to be coach of this team," delighted boss Pep Guardiola said afterwards.
In what Sebastian Rode described as a "physical battle," the Bundesliga leaders kept their cool and ruthlessly exploited the chances that came their way. Thomas Müller opened the scoring on 24 minutes with a brilliant curled finish. "There's an ancient rule: never let me shoot from outside the box with my left foot, but Bremen chose to ignore the rule," quipped the Germany star, "no, I just did what I had to do -- and my left boot did as it was told."
Müller, who now has five goals in his last three games, was only not involved in David Alaba's direct free-kick to make it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time. Robert Lewandowski's goals on the break after 76 minutes and then in stoppage time both came from textbook Müller assists. "We're proud about winning so comfortably yet again," the striker declared. Team-mate Rode, one of the starters in the absence of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, was unstinting in his praise for the FCB youth product: "Thomas's superb goal opened up the match, and our counter-attacks at the end were very good."
The result means FCB have won their last six in the Bundesliga with an extraordinary 27 goals scored and only two conceded, a streak bettered only by Hamburger SV 35 years ago (for 28, against three). Alongside Müller, Lewandowski has been a major contributor to the recent success with goals in four of the last five league games. Following his third brace in a red shirt, the Pole is up to 13 for the season and lies third in the Bundesliga scoring chart. "It's doing me a great deal of good," the striker acknowledged.
The afternoon was also a momentous one for Pepe Reina as the 32-year-old made his competitive debut for Munich. "It was magnificent," the Spaniard said, "I had great support from my team-mates. We've again showed just how much passion, character and unity there is in this team." Guardiola called him into his office on Friday and told him the good news, the keeper revealed. "It was great to be back in action again."
Faith in Reina and Starke
Manuel Neuer stayed behind in Munich as the boss chose to rest his number one following a run of energy-sapping weeks. "Manu is the best keeper in the world and maybe the best of all time, but he's played every game. Sometimes you need to rebuild your mental reserves," Guardiola explained, also confirming his faith in backup duo Reina and Tom Starke, who was among the subs on Saturday. "Both have huge experience and great character," the coach enthused.
The combination of team spirit and fine form means Bayern can be optimistic about the near future. "It's looking really good," commented Rode, although any talk of retaining the league title is taboo in the dressing room: "As long as nothing's certain, there's nothing to celebrate. We're going flat out every week." Bastian Schweinsteiger voiced a similar opinion. Closest pursuers Wolfsburg are capable of piecing together a similar winning run, the vice-captain warned, "and we have plenty of tough challenges ahead of us, so the three points were very, very important."