Created on 18-01-2014 at 18:00 PM
Bayern returned to Bundesliga action after the mid-season break on Friday night and smoothly picked up where they left off last year, deservedly beating third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach to extend their lead at the top of the standings and stretch their unbeaten run in the league to 42 games.
The raucous 54,010 full house at Borussia Park, where Gladbach were previously undefeated this term and had won all but one of their matches, saw Pep Guardiola’s side race into a seventh-minute lead through Mario Götze and dominate possession for long spells before half-time, although the men in red failed to turn their superiority into more goals and almost paid when Max Kruse smacked a shot off Manuel Neuer’s near post. The champions went at it with renewed vigour after the restart and Müller made it two from the spot on 54 minutes, after which there were chances at both ends in an entertaining second period that ended in a merited FCB victory.
A 15th win from 17 fixtures takes FCB onto 47 points, ten clear of second-placed Leverkusen and now 14 ahead of Friday’s defeated opponents. The Bavarians are back in Bundesliga action on Wednesday when they travel to Stuttgart for the fixture rearranged to accommodate Bayern’s Club World Cup commitments last December.
Franck sidelined, Robben on the bench
Guardiola made three changes compared to the previous league outing at home to Hamburg six weeks ago. Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Xherdan Shaqiri came into the team in place of Daniel van Buyten, Diego Contento and Mario Mandzukic, with the big Croat and injured Franck Ribery both omitted from the squad. The bench featured experience in the shape of Arjen Robben and Claudio Pizarro, and youth with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Ylli Sallahi and Mitch Weiser.
The Reds lined up with Neuer in goal and Rafinha, Boateng, ex-Gladbach man Dante and Alaba in defence. Captain Philipp Lahm took the holding role, with Thiago, Toni Kroos, Müller and Shaqiri in midfield, and Götze starting as a false nine.
Gladbach boss Lucien Favre sent out his high-flying side with reported Barcelona target Marc-André ter Stegen in goal and a potent front five including Venezuelan hitman Juan Arango and Germany hopeful Kruse.
After referee Peter Gagelmann whistled the match underway on an unpleasantly cold evening in the Lower Rhine, the Reds settled quickly and created the first clear-cut chance only five minutes into the match, but Götze was surprised by the amount of space available and his snatched shot grazed the far post. The miss mattered less just two minutes later when Müller produced a superb thrust and cutback for the unmarked Götze to slide home the early opener from 12 yards.
Kroos let off a sighter and Rafinha tested ter Stegen with a vicious swerving drive following a corner, and although Neuer had to rush from his goal to clear a hopeful punt over the top, the play was concentrated in the home half with Götze spearing a shot only just too high in the 22nd minute.
Neuer made his first save on 34 minutes, tipping Arango’s trademark dipping free-kick away for a corner, but it still came against the run of play when Kruse arrowed a drive against the base of the FCB keeper’s near post on a rare home foray six minutes from the break. Bayern raced up the other end but Thiago was denied by a late Martin Stranzl lunge, before Neuer pushed aside Arango’s cross-shot as the home side finished the first half on the attack.
Müller from the spot
The second half opened with ter Stegen plucking a looping Müller header out of the air and fisting away a Thiago piledriver with some difficulty after the ball took an odd bounce. FCB had the bit between their teeth now and won a 53rd-minute penalty after an amazing scramble in the box featuring two point-blank ter Stegen saves and a melee of bodies, out of which Mr Gagelmann spotted a defensive handball by Granit Xhaka from Thiago’s shot. Müller took the responsibility and sent the home keeper the wrong way to double the lead.
There was fire in the play now with a couple of tasty tackles on either side, before Neuer dived to save from Kruse and ter Stegen blocked Dante’s cut-back. Borussia were still good for a surprise as Patrick Herrmann showed on 63 minutes with a low cross-shot off Neuer’s far post, but the same player was guilty of a shocking miss with the goal at his mercy just moments later.
Alaba shot too close to ter Stegen as the match entered the final 20 minutes, with Robben and Pizarro taking over from Shaqiri and Götze for the closing stages. Alaba tried his luck again but hit the side netting and ter Stegen got down well to deny Pizarro as the match finished with the club world champions closing out the victory.
Chris Hamley reporting from Borussia Park for fcbayern.de