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Olympiacos in midweek

Reds keen to ‘shift up a gear’ after narrow win

The FC Bayern players were both exultant and relieved as they celebrated with the South Terrace faithful on Saturday afternoon following a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Bavarian rivals FC Augsburg at the Allianz Arena. The champions were still losing 1-0 until the 77th minute but battled back to make it four wins out of four in the Bundesliga, a morale-boosting overture to Wednesday’s Champions League group stage opener away to Olympiacos in Piraeus.

“I kept believing we could win it right to the end,” declared captain Philipp Lahm, “we left the field as deserved winners.” Indeed, Munich finished with 80 percent of the possession, a 27-4 win in the shot count and nine corners to the visitors’ none, but the home camp was not at all happy with the first 45 minutes. “We were asleep for the first half and lacked pace,” Lahm observed.

Second half turnaround

“Our body language in the first half wasn’t good and our play was much, much too slow,” agreed coach Pep Guardiola, “I hope we can improve in the future. We have to play for 90 minutes, not just 45.” Disciplined Augsburg dropped deep and stifled the men from Munich for long spells in a strong defensive performance punctuated by occasional attacking forays of their own. Nevertheless, Alexander Esswein’s 43rd-minute opener still came out of the blue.

“The intensity dropped a little coming off the international break and we failed to shake our more leisurely approach before half-time. And then they punished us,” straight-talking Thomas Müller said. “We were mentally a little bit sloppy, and you can’t afford that at this level.” But after the restart, FCB “shifted up a gear,” according to Lahm. “We have to learn from this. It’ not good enough, and that includes in the Bundesliga.”

Müller keeps his cool

On the eve of his 26th birthday, Müller provided the assist for Robert Lewandowski’s 77th minute equaliser, before tucking away a last-minute spot-kick to earn what the striker felt was “an ultimately deserved victory. Even an experienced player like me gets a few butterflies when it’s a 90th-minute penalty to win it 2-1. It was a pressure situation.” Lahm acknowledged that the courageous visitors would feel hard done by: “It was bitter for Augsburg.”

Just a couple of hours after the final whistle, the players had turned their attention to the opening game in Europe’s elite club competition: “We’re looking forward to Wednesday’s match, and we’re obviously hoping to start a winning run in the Champions League too,” said Lewandowski, although the Pole is wary of serial Greek champions Olympiacos: “It won’t be easy, especially away from home. We have to play well from the start, not from the 46th minute like today. We have to go for it.”