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Hertha Berlin 0 Bayern 0

Dour draw seals top spot at halfway mark

Saturday’s draw with an ordinary Berlin side means Bayern have hit their target of topping the table after the first half of the Bundesliga programme.

A capacity 74,220 crowd at the Berlin Olympic stadium saw the league leaders dominate in every area of the park against the timid and ultra-defensive home side, but Munich lacked penetration in the first half and the game remained deadlocked at the break.

Both sides upped the tempo after the restart and the crowd was treated to sporadic goalmouth action, but the orgy of misplaced passes persisted and the game increasingly appeared destined to end without a winner.

The result, Bayern’s fourth goalless draw in their last seven league outings, sees the Bavarians spend the mid-season break on top of the Bundesliga with 36 points from 17 matches, but Bremen’s 5-2 victory over Leverkusen takes Werder level on points and to within five goals of the men in red.

Three changes

As expected, coach Ottmar Hitzfeld made three changes to the team held 0-0 at home by lowly Duisburg last weekend. Next season’s designated number one Michael Rensing deputised for Oliver Kahn, suspended by the club for disciplinary reasons. Mark van Bommel captained the side for the first time in the absence of Kahn and suspended vice-captain Lucio.

Lukas Podolski took over from the injured Luca Toni with Bastian Schweinsteiger preferred to José Sosa, as Hitzfeld reverted to a nominal 4-2-3-1 formation with three attacking midfielders supporting lone striker Miroslav Klose.

Dour first period

Such was Bayern’s utter domination of possession at the start, twenty minutes had elapsed before Rensing’s first touch of the ball, although the Kahn understudy’s second intervention was almost to pick the ball out of the back of his net, Gilberto firing dangerously across goal on practically the home side’s first incursion over the halfway line.

For all the visitors’ easy command chances were few and far between, a Klose effort from a Franck Ribery cross and Daniel van Buyten’s header aside, and the tempo dropped appreciably until Martin Demichelis’ neat through pass released Podolski to whistle a drive just past Berlin keeper Jaroslav Drobny’s far post.

Rensing in action

The second half opened with Rensing’s first save, a decent parry from Gilberto’s dipping drive, and lively Serbia striker Marko Pantelic twice loosed off shots as Hertha finally emerged from their shell.

The Bayern keeper then excelled on the hour with a fine diving save to deny Hungary veteran Pal Dardai, but was lucky to see Josip Simunic’ header loop over the bar after flapping at a corner.

The home side’s flurry served as a wake-up call to the Bavarians and Ribery twisted and turned his way to a shooting position, before Podolski sent a right-foot screamer over Drobny’s crossbar.

Laboured closing phase

Klose was inches away from connecting at a corner and saw his fierce 74th minute effort brilliantly beaten out by Drobny as Bayern maintained the initiative, and Hitzfeld introduced Jan Schlaudraff for the tiring Podolski in a final throw of the dice at the end.

But a forest of Berlin legs thwarted Ribery and Klose’s wayward finish from a good shooting position in the last minute symbolised the leaders’ lacklustre form on the day.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley