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Schalke swept aside

Impressive FCB cruise to crushing win

On the first day of the Oktoberfest, Bayern wore their Lederhosen-look away strip on the road for the first time and celebrated a special day in the Bavarian calendar with a crushing Bundesliga victory away to Schalke, as the impressive treble winners extended their unbeaten league run to 31 games and went joint top of the standings with a fifth win in six matches.

The 61,973 capacity crowd at Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen saw a breathless opening with chances at both ends, before the Reds hit the Royal Blues with a double whammy midway through the first half, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Mandzukic heading the visitors into the driving seat. FCB comfortably dominated their stunned opponents after that and could have increased the lead before and after half-time, but the visitors were content to keep the men in blue chasing shadows for long spells and waited until 15 minutes from time before Franck Ribery wrapped up the points once and for all, sub Claudio Pizarro adding the fourth with five minutes to play.

The imposing victory takes FCB joint top of the standings on 16 points from six matches, level on points with Dortmund after BVB’s 1-1 draw away to Nürnberg earlier in the day, and one ahead of third-placed Bayer Leverkusen. Pep Guardiola’s side return to action on Wednesday when they entertain Hannover, Bundesliga opponents last weekend, in the DFB Cup second round.

Schweinsteiger for Müller

Bayern boss Guardiola made one change to the team that cruised to a 3-0 victory over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League opener last Tuesday, restoring Bastian Schweinsteiger to the line-up in place of Thomas Müller, who was joined on the bench by the likes of Daniel van Buyten, Xherdan Shaqiri and Claudio Pizarro. Thiago, Mario Götze and Javi Martinez are still sidelined with injury and failed to make the squad.

The treble winners started with Schalke old boys Manuel Neuer and Rafinha in goal and at right-back respectively, with Jerome Boateng, Dante and David Alaba completing the back four. Toni Kroos made his 150th Bundesliga appearance alongside Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm in central midfield, with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on the wings, and Mario Mandzukic at centre-forward.

Schalke coach Jens Keller, whose team went into the game on a roll after winning their last four games including their own Champions League group stage opener against Steaua Bucharest, fielded a strong line-up including star signing Kevin-Prince Boateng, midfield enforcer Jermaine Jones, and powerful attacking trio Jefferson Farfan, Julian Draxler, and Adam Szalai.

First-half double whammy

After the customary deafening chorus of boos for Neuer as he took up station in front of the home end, referee Manuel Gräfe whistled the match underway and the sides ripped into each other from the off. Neuer saved at a stretch from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Szalai miskicked from a dangerous position, before Alaba fizzed a free-kick just wide of Timo Hildebrand’s near upright, and Kroos found the crowd from Robben’s neat lay-off.

Both sides attacked at speed, Farfan outpacing Dante and setting up Szalai only for Jerome Boateng to block, Schweinsteiger curling one just over the bar, and Ribery causing havoc down the left. But the champions entered the comfort zone midway through the half with a rapid-fire double strike: FCB took the lead after 21 minutes when Schweinsteiger stooped to head home Robben‘s corner, and the celebrations had hardly died down before Alaba crossed for Mandzukic to head the second a minute later, Hildebrand and Benedikt Höwedes scrambling to prevent the goal but ultimately only helping the ball over the line.

Schalke were shell-shocked and the Lederhosen-look visitors threatened to run riot, Robben coming agonisingly close to making it three on 29 minutes, Rafinha rasping a half-volley into the advertising hoardings with the whole goal to aim at, and Mandzukic belting a drive into the side-netting. Hildebrand saved Ribery’s effort from one of many wayward Schalke passes in the home side’s build-up play, but Guardiola’s men were on the whole content to cruise to half-time.

Assured and dominant

The pace died for a spell after the restart as the men in blue focused on damage limitation and the visitors did only the necessary, although FCB always looked capable of something extra when Robben or Ribery were on the ball, Mandzukic ballooning his shot from ten yards after the Dutchman’s dart, and Kroos straying too close to Hildebrand as he ran onto Ribery’s pass.

Both Kevin-Prince Boateng and Draxler fired across the face of goal as Keller’s side finally mustered a couple of chances with the clock already showing 70 minutes, and the lively Dennis Aogo shot over, before Müller replaced Robben, and the excellent Alaba hared to the by-line and set up Ribery for the simplest of finishes to make it 3-0 with a quarter of an hour still to play.

Jan Krichhoff and Pizarro took over from Schweinsteiger and Mandzukic for the last ten minutes, and the Peruvian added the finishing touch on 85 minutes with a side-footed finish into the empty net after Müller initially lost out to Hildebrand but kept his cool and unselfishly squared for his team-mate to wrap up a crushing victory.

Chris Hamley reporting from Veltins Arena for fcbayern.de

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