Bayern close the gap
"It wasn't a great or spectacular game," Niko Kovac was forced to admit after the final home fixture of the year. "It was a hard-fought win, a victory of the will and of mentality," added the highly satisfied coach. In the 1-0 win against RB Leipzig, Bayern didn't produce a great display but earned the three points through great commitment and lots of passion. "It really was an important win. Those are the games that bring crucial points," was the assessment of sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
Both teams were compact and endeavoured to defend well. There was too much riding on the game. "It was a very important match and nobody wanted to make a mistake," declared Manuel Neuer. After Dortmund lost in Düsseldorf the previous night, Bayern were able to reduce the deficit to top spot to six points. "We learned the lesson from Düsseldorf yesterday," said Kovac. In addition, the lead over Leipzig has been extended.
That required a lot of work. Leipzig were well-organised and gave little away. It was no surprise to the 47-year-old coach: "They are a tactically very well-organised team and are incredibly dangerous in counter-attacks. We had to be careful and patient. I told my team one goal would decide the game. And we have to score it." And that's what happened – albeit in the closing stages of the game.
Renato Sanches broke into the opposition box on 83 minutes and forced the Leipzig keeper Péter Gulácsi into making a good save. The ball rebounded to the feet of Franck Ribéry, who first sent an opponent the wrong way with a dummy before slotting the ball into the back of the net. "Franck scored in a unique way. He didn't stab it in but rather passed it into the net. It was great, world class. He's been doing that for years and you don't lose that quality," enthused Kovac about his 35-year-old wizard on the wing.
Thank you Franck
"Thank you, Frank!", was the brief assessment from Thomas Müller who was happy the festive farewell to the fans after the final whistle was much more upbeat than might have been the case. Even though the goal came so late, "we deserved to win. We were always closer to scoring than Leipzig," vouched Neuer. Shortly before Ribéry's winner, Niklas Süle (77') and Joshua Kimmich (79') had the best chances but the Leipzig defence held firm on both occasions.
"We are happy we've won. That does us good particularly after all the effort we've put in," said a happy Neuer. However, there was unfortunately a downside to the victory as Serge Gnabry (28') and Kingsley Coman (60') both went off injured. Whether the pair are available for the last match of the year in Frankfurt on Saturday will become clear in the next couple of days.
"Today went well for us and, as we are coming up to Christmas, I'd say Father Christmas was thinking of us," said FCB chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge unwilling to allow the potential injuries to dampen celebrations as he also looked forward: "It's important for us to get a result against Frankfurt on Saturday and wait and see what happens in the Friday match." That brings together the top two teams in the Bundesliga in Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach. That means Bayern could further reduce the gap and theoretically move up to second place at the weekend. That could well happen with the same attitude shown against Leipzig.