Created on 05-12-2015 at 17:18 PM by Chris Hamley
Late sub Franck Ribery marked his comeback from a nine-month lay-off with a goal on Saturday, but it was not enough to prevent Bayern falling to a first Bundesliga defeat of the 2015/16 campaign as longstanding rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach struck three times in a whirlwind second-half spell.
The 54,010 capacity crowd at Borussia Park saw a fluid, high-quality contest, in which Pep Guardiola’s men applied relentless pressure for long spells but initially failed to turn their superiority into goals, Kingsley Coman cracking a shot against the post midway through the first half.
The Reds were punished for their profligacy nine minutes after the restart when Oscar Wendt put the home side a goal up, before Lars Stindl and USA international Fabian Johnson made it three with a double whammy midway through the second period. Sub Ribery pulled one one back nine minutes from the end but it proved too little, too late for the league leaders.
The result means the Reds remain top of the standings on 40 points from 15 games, although Borussia Dortmund can cut the lead to five points if they beat Wolfsburg in the evening, with Gladbach themselves now up to third. The Bavarians are back in action on Wednesday in the final Champions League Group F fixture away to Dinamo Zagreb, before the home Bundesliga meeting with Ingolstadt next Saturday afternoon.
For the first time in 99 matches, Bayern coach Guardiola sent out an unchanged team compared to the previous match, last weekend’s 2-0 home win over Hertha Berlin.
That was both a mark of trust from the Spaniard, but also a reflection of the current injury roster, as Mario Götze, Juan Bernat, Thiago, Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa and David Alaba are all sidelined with injury. There was heartening news from the bench, however, where Ribery returned to the matchday squad for the first time in nine months.
The leaders began with Manual Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Mehdi Benatia and captain Philipp Lahm in defence, Xabi Alonso, Javi Martinez and Arturo Vidal in midfield, and Coman, Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski in attack.
Coman against the post
After referee Felix Zwayer whistled play underway on an overcast afternoon in the Lower Rhine, an absorbing tactical battle unfolded with both teams pressing high up the field and seeking to use the full width of the pitch. The home team’s Raffael warmed Neuer’s gloves with just a couple of minutes played, before Martinez headed FCB’s first chance onto the roof of the net and Alonso’s drive skidded wide of the target.
The men in red tightened their grip after quarter of an hour and began creating chances at will. Rafinha’s shot was deflected just inches too high, home keeper Jan Sommer saved in quick succession from Lewandowski and Müller, Coman’s effort was scrambled away for a corner, and Benatia failed to get power on a close-range header.
A goal seemed only a matter of time and should really have materialised on 25 minutes in a frantic scramble in front of Sommer, but the keeper blocked Martinez' effort from six yards and Coman blasted the follow-up against the post. The Munich storm temporarily blew itself out and Stindl headed over Neuer’s crossbar in a rare Gladbach foray on the half-hour, with the home side now keeping their opponents at bay through to the interval.
Foals at the gallop
After a cagey start to the second half Vidal sought to pick up the pace with a shot on the turn, but instead it was Borussia who snatched a 54th-minute lead when Raffael set up Wendt ten yards from goal, the Swede picking his spot and leaving Neuer no chance with a stroked finish.
Bayern battered away at Borussia’s packed defence now but gaps were unforthcoming and the Reds were occasionally exposed on the break, Neuer reacting brilliantly to turn Julian Korb’s shot from point-blank range onto the bar and away to safety. But even the world’s best keeper was powerless to prevent Gladbach’s double strike in the 66th and 68th minutes, Nico Elvedi first setting up Stindl to volley his side’s second, and Johnson scampering clear on the break before sliding home the third.
With Sebastian Rode on for Alonso, FCB sought a way back but Sommer saved Lewandowski’s shot, with Ribery replacing the Pole for the last 15 minutes. The Frenchman twisted and turned but was crowded out with Coman curling a shot wide, but Ribery made his mark nine minutes from time with a cool finish to make it 3-1 after fine work by Müller and Vidal. Munich launched a late onslaught but the Foals resisted doggedly and Bayern’s first league defeat of term could no longer be averted.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley