Confidence boost for Bayern ahead of tricky phase
Three games, nine points with nine goals for and none against. The first week after the return of Jupp Heynckes as FC Bayern head coach could hardly have gone better. Two clear victories against FC Freiburg (5-0) and Celtic (3-0) were followed on Saturday by a narrow 1-0 win for the record champions away to Hamburg SV that puts FCB level on points with league leaders Borussia Dortmund.
"We were five points behind Dortmund a week ago and now we are on level terms," said Arjen Robben after the hard-fought victory in front of a sell-out crowd at the Volkspark Stadium. "We knew Dortmund dropped points and that was obviously an incentive for us to definitely win the game today," said goalkeeper Sven Ulreich who kept a clean sheet for the third game in succession. "Of course, I'm happy to have a week like that.
Five changes for Bayern
Ahead of the visit to the Hanseatic city, Heynckes warned his team about the threat posed by the team in 15th place without a win in six games. "This team is much better than the results suggest." And the 72-year-old coach was proved to be right. Playing an aggressive pressing game, HSV made life difficult for the visitors from the start as they disrupted the Reds build-ups and prevented the FC Bayern team, with five changes, finding their rhythm.
"I've always found it really difficult at Hamburg, reported Mats Hummels after the game. I was often on the end of a drubbing here. It's always difficult for big teams at Hamburg so we were lucky to be able to secure this result," added Hummels. "You know it's always a tough game here," said Robben. Hamburg “gave their all and play with passion and aggression.”
Extra man makes the difference
Above all, the first half (Robben: "We didn't get it right tactically") was hard-fought with HSV playing an open game although goalscoring opportunities were a rarity at both ends. "It was very difficult for us up to the sending off," said Hummels referring to the red card for Hamburg's Gideon Jung who was dismissed for an aggressive challenge on the very agile Kingsley Coman just before the break.
Bayern took the lead just after the restart with a goal from Corentin Tolisso on 52 minutes and the lead could have been extended throughout the rest of the game. However, Bayern were much less clinical than in the last two matches. "We have to be more decisive and finish games off earlier," said Niklas Süle before adding: "A 1-0 is still worth three points so we're really happy."
Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic was also "happy to get the win but we definitely know we can do better." Plenty of opportunities are available over the next two weeks with games against RB Leipzig (DFB Cup and Bundesliga), away to Celtic and Borussia Dortmund. "We've gained confidence and are now looking forward to two difficult but very interesting weeks," declared Salihamidzic.