FC Bayern take a 'big step towards the title'
It was the 86th minute of the home game against Hannover 96, when the atmosphere in Munich's Allianz Arena reached its climax. After being out injured for over five months, Arjen Robben took to the pitch, and all around the arena 75,000 spectators gave "Mr. Wembley" a loud and enthusiastic reception. "You can't describe that," the 35-year-old said, still searching for the right words long after the final whistle. "The incredible atmosphere, the reaction from the fans, it was really insane."
The veteran player almost made it onto the scoresheet too with a free-kick just before the final whistle, which just went over the bar. "The guys were very kind. It was a gift from the team that they let me take it. The ball was really in a position for a right-footed player," Robben explained after his 700th competitive game as a pro. But even without a goal, the Dutchman was as happy "as a little child" and was "very, very, very grateful" to finally be able to play again. "That's what I've been fighting for over the past weeks and months."
Just two minutes before Robben's comeback, Franck Ribéry, who had also come on as a substitute had scored to make it 3-1, rounding off the league leaders' match against the bottom team and starting a mass celebration in the stands. In addition to Robben, the Frenchman will also leave the record champions at the end of the season, preferably by winning the double. "I've already won over 20 honours with Bayern and I hope we'll also win the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup this season," said the 36-year-old in a video message on FCBayern.tv.
„“You can’t describe it. I’m just very, very, very grateful.””
On their way to their seventh championship in a row, the Reds could not be stopped by the visitors from Hanover. Robert Lewandowski and Leon Goretzka scored in a one-sided first half to make it 2-0 at the break, a lead which would have been much greater, had it not been for the heroics of Hannover's keeper Michael Esser, who had to make numerous saves. "I think we did a really good job in the first half," coach Niko Kovac said in praise of his team. He was only dissatisfied with failing to take more of the "many clear-cut opportunities. At the break, we should have been leading not only by 2-0, but by 4-0."
Hannover's Jonathas then brought the visitors back to within a goal when he scored from a penalty given for a dubious hand-ball shortly after half-time, before Ribéry wrapped things up in the final phase, sparking a party atmosphere among the Bayern fans in the process. Three hours after the end of the match, they may have become even more exuberant following Borussia Dortmund's 2-2 draw in Bremen. Consequently, with just two matches still to play, FC Bayern have a four-point lead. This Saturday in Leipzig, the Reds could seal an early title win.
"I think we've taken a big step towards the title, but it's not over yet. We still have two difficult tasks ahead of us," Kovac stressed. Captain Thomas Müller spoke of a "good afternoon for us" and was already looking ahead: "An away game in Leipzig is never an easy task. But you also want these games in which you have to prove yourself. Look at the home game against Dortmund. When the pressure is at its greatest, we have to be there."
This is what Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry want. The pair are hopeful of winning their eighth and ninth championships respectively. "We still have a lot to do, and that's very important to me. We have to win honours and that's what matters," said Robben. "We have three very difficult games. It's a challenge. But if you want to achieve something as a big team, you have to work hard for it."