FCB delighted with ‘victory for the group’
The Bayern players stood arm in arm in front of the travelling fans, dancing with delight and revelling in the adoration from the stands in an outburst of jubilation following Saturday's 1-0 victory away to Borussia Dortmund, "our closest rivals in recent years," as Philipp Lahm said. And the post-match celebrations were appropriate because the hard-earned win was ultimately down to unity and disciplined team play.
"It's a victory for the group," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, "it was an extremely determined team performance." The visitors were focused and alert from the start, with the reshaped defensive unit quickly settling into a solid groove. "The game plan with a back three worked out. We defended really well," keeper Manuel Neuer said approvingly.
"We weren't as dominant in terms of possession. Instead it was down to our defensive organisation," remarked Thomas Müller, who kept the Dortmund rearguard busy in their own half of the field as the perfect foil for Robert Lewandowski. Müller came within inches of opening the scoring with a seventh-minute lob, but it was ultimately Lewandowski who headed home the opener and what proved the winner from a loose ball after 36 minutes, taking him up to 14 for the season.
"I knew it would be a tough game," the match-winner said afterwards, "BVB are a great team. We had to fight." Lahm, starting a match for the first time in 147 days, praised a "complete team performance. Every player worked away for everyone else." Müller added: "It was an excellent team display against very good opponents."
"Protecting the 1-0 lead through to the end wasn't easy," acknowledged Neuer. Marco Reus blasted a clear-cut opening into the side-netting after an hour, and Neuer showed all his class to beat out a free-kick by the same player in the dying seconds. "Manu did exceptionally well with the free-kick right at the end," commented Müller. "But we played really well for long periods," observed Neuer, "Dortmund didn't have many chances."
Praise for Dante
"It was a deserved win because the team fought really hard," said Rummenigge. "It wasn't a fantastic match, but there were important points on offer." Pep Guardiola was equally pleased. "We've taken an important step today," said the coach, congratulating all his players and singling out Dante from special praise: "He's not played much recently, but he's incredibly important to us."
The Reds will not waste much time basking in the afterglow of victory as they are on the road again this Wednesday in the DFB Cup quarter-final against in-form Bayer Leverkusen. "Winning today is a boost. We'll have to see if we can carry the momentum with us to Leverkusen," said Neuer. "It's a crucial month," observed Lewandowski, "every game matters. We want to win them all." However, warned captain Lahm: "We still have areas where we can improve."