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'We're all relieved'

Precious points before the international break

The players’ batteries were flat and their legs grew heavier and heavier, but at the end of the day it proved enough. “We're all relieved,” acknowledged Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after the hard-fought 1-0 victory away to FC Köln which sent FC Bayern eight points clear of Borussia Dortmund overnight with seven matchdays to go. “You couldn't expect a spectacular match today. The main thing was to take the three points. Now we have two quiet weeks in which some of us can regenerate,” added Rummenigge.

The men from Munich had less than three days to shake off the exhaustion after the 120-minute thriller against Juventus in midweek. Pep Guardiola rotated his squad against Köln, but Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, David Alaba, Douglas Costa, Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski made the starting line-up once more. “It was quite an effort. Especially towards the end it was difficult,” explained Kimmich, who like Alaba, Lewandowski and Neuer covered the full 90 minutes.

Lewandowski was also visibly exhausted after the match. He revealed that he needed a breather: “The international break is ideal.” But on Saturday the Poland international once again gave it his all. As so often in the last few weeks, Lewandowski was the match-winner against Köln. His 10th-minute strike was the only goal of the game. “That's why we have him,” said Kimmich with a grin. Lewandowski now boasts 25 league goals, making him the most successful non-German Bayern player within a single season. The striker has never scored more often in a Bundesliga campaign.

A good performance, but hard work

Lewandowski scored his 36th goal in competitive fixtures in a first half clearly dominated by the Reds, with Köln exclusively focused on defence. But as Bayern failed to make it two and their midweek exertions finally took their toll, the match was an increasingly tense affair after the break. “We had to work a little harder to wrap up this 1-0 victory,” revealed Neuer, “but in total we defended well as a team and allowed few major chances.”

The Bayern pros thus returned to Munich with a good feeling. Some of them, like Neuer, will take on Italy and England with Germany during the international break. “It's good for us all that we can come down a bit ahead of the finale to the season,” revealed the World's Best Goalkeeper, “I'm looking forward to the next few weeks.”