Created on 23-02-2014 at 19:20 PM
Champions-elect Bayern thrilled the home faithful with sparkling, high-tempo football at times on Saturday evening, Arjen Robben helping himself to a hat-trick as the Reds ran up a thumping victory over shell-shocked Schalke, who had Kyriakos Papadopoulos sent off 15 minutes from the end. Robben and Co have now won 16 league games on the bounce and scored at least two goals in their last 15 Bundesliga fixtures, where they are undefeated in 48 matches and lead the standings by a massive 20 points.
The 71,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw the leaders scream off the blocks and score four goals in a whirlwind first half-hour through David Alaba, Robben, Mario Mandzukic and Robben again. It could even have been more as the visitors all but capitulated in the face of the Bayern storm, but keeper Ralf Fährmann bravely kept the score down and FCB eased back a shade after the break, with ex-Royal Blue Rafinha unluckily scoring an own goal after the hour. The champions upped the pace again and Robben completed his hat-trick from the spot following the incident that earned Papadopoulos his marching orders.
Win number 21 from 23 games this term sees FCB pull out a yawning 20-point lead over new second-placed team Dortmund. The Bavarians, who now have 65 points and are well on course to win the league in March, are back in action next Saturday afternoon away to high-flying Wolfsburg.
Manuel returns, armband for Basti
Guardiola made four changes to the team that comprehensively beat Hannover last weekend. Ex-Schalke man Manuel Neuer returned in place of Tom Starke in goal, with Dante and Toni Kroos replacing rested duo Jerome Boateng and Philipp Lahm, and Robben taking over from the injured Thomas Müller. The break for Bayern’s Boateng meant there was no immediate on-field battle of brothers with Schalke’s Kevin-Prince.
The home side started with Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Javi Martinez, Dante and Alaba in the back four, captain for the day Bastian Schweinsteiger in the anchor role, Thiago, Mario Götze, Kroos and Robben in attacking midfield, and Mandzukic at centre-forward.
Reds irresistible in first half-hour
After referee Dr Jochen Drees whistled the match underway, it was one-way traffic from the off with the men in red tearing into their helpless opponents. Alaba duly handed Pep Guardiola’s team a third-minute lead with a free-kick from 25 yards, deflected past Fährmann by Benedikt Höwedes. Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was a virtual spectator as his team struggled even to come close to the halfway line, and the Reds struck again after quarter of an hour: Leon Goretzka lost possession 30 yards from his own goal, Mandzukic switched the play to Robben, and the Dutchman accelerated into the box before beating Fährmann to his right.
Bayern pushed on and made it three after 24 minutes, Höwedes giving Alaba all the time in the world to cross from the left for Mandzukic to steal in between centre-backs Papadopoulos and Joel Matip and power a thumping header into the net from seven yards. Schalke were reeling and Rafinha set up the 28th-minute fourth, playing in Robben on the right edge of the area. The world-class winger left Sead Kolasinac and Matip for dead and guided another fine finish into the far corner.
Even now Guardiola’s men did not let up, but Fährmann showed great reflexes to deny Kroos, Alaba and Mandzukic, the latter from a glorious flowing move, and Matip thwarted the Croat with a desperate lunge. Neuer finally saw some action in the last five minutes before the break, dealing capably with efforts from sub Christian Fuchs, Matip and Höwedes, but the late flurry could not disguise the one-sided nature of the half.
Easier-paced second period
Royal Blues boss Jens Keller clearly had stern words with his men at half-time as the visitors were a different proposition in the period immediately after the break. Kevin-Prince Boateng headed the first chance of the half wide as the Gelsenkirchen team finally gained a toehold, and the home defence was breached after 64 minutes when the unlucky Rafinha turned a Jefferson Farfan corner over his own line.
That stung Guardiola’s men and chances now came thick and fast in front of the South Terrace faithful. However, Munich found Fährmann in superb form with brilliant saves from a Mandzukic header and a Schweinsteiger curler, and an extraordinary double stop to deny Götze and Mandzu again.
Claudio Pizarro took over from the excellent Götze for the last 20 minutes, before FCB were awarded a penalty in the 75th minute when Papadopoulos bundled Mandzukic over in the box, the Greek defender earning a rather harsh red card for his trouble. Robben completed his hat-trick with a well-struck penalty into the top corner before giving way to Diego Contento shortly afterwards, Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg also replacing Schweinsteiger as the Reds wrapped up an exciting and deserved victory.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley