Icing on the cake before the holidays
FC Bayern were exhausted but happy as they returned to Munich on Saturday evening after the 1-0 victory over Hannover. A glance at the Bundesliga table heightened the collective sense of anticipation prior to the Christmas holidays: the Bavarians have restored their eight-point lead following Borussia Dortmund's defeat on Saturday. "It's the icing on the cake," commented Thomas Müller, "we can now start the two-week break for real."
Bayern travelled to Lower Saxony with a depleted squad on Friday evening. Eight regulars were sidelined (Lahm, Robben, Ribéry, Götze, Alaba, Costa, Benatia and Bernat), the others were exhausted due to the many energy-sapping games over the last few weeks. "It was a last effort," said Müller, who scored the match-winning goal from the penalty spot 40 minutes into the contest, wrapping up FCB's 15th win in 17 league matches.
The men from Munich showed their qualities in the first half in particular, but did not make the most of their chances. "We lacked a little bit of luck," explained Robert Lewandowski. After the break Bayern slowed the pace and concentrated on preserving their lead. "After the many injuries we primarily wanted to control the game today," declared Guardiola: "A huge compliment to my players, it was a crucial win."
'We're fully on target'
FCB have ended the first half of the season on an excellent tally of 46 points. The Reds were even more successful before the winter break just once before, with 47 points two years ago. "Of course we can speak of a good first half of the season, we're fully on target," commented Manuel Neuer, who only had to show his qualities once: eight minutes into the game he directed a header by Leon Andreasen onto the bar with a fine reaction save.
But the Bavarians spent little time discussing the course of the game after the final whistle, turning their attention to what is to come: the second half of the campaign (Neuer: "We'll attack") and the eagerly-awaited holidays. "I have to regenerate and unwind," said Neuer. The same goes for his team-mates. Müller offered his own perspective: "It's nice to have time to see everyone and start the day without any appointments. Football is a wonderful game, but it's not everything in life."