Created on 2016-01-22 at 22:19 PM by Chris Hamley
A Robert Lewandowski brace ensured Bayern made a winning start to the second half of the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign with a 2-1 success away to northern rivals Hamburger SV in Friday’s official restart match, ensuring the men from Munich will at least maintain their lead in the standings and potentially stretch it at the end of the Matchday 18 fixtures.
The 57,000 capacity crowd at the Volksparkstadion saw the energetic home side frustrate Pep Guardiola’s men for the first half hour with disciplined defending and aggressive tackling, but the patient Reds took a 37th-minute lead courtesy of Lewandowski’s penalty after home keeper Rene Adler felled Thomas Müller in the box. The visitors suffered a setback on 53 minutes when Xabi Alonso unluckily turned the ball over his own line from an Aaron Hunt free-kick, but Lewandowski restored the lead just eight minutes later from Müller’s assist and the champions duly closed out a hard-working but deserved victory.
A 16th win in 18 matches means FCB consolidate their advantage at the top of the table on 49 points, a yawning 11 clear of second-placed Dortmund at least until the black-and-yellows face Mönchengladbach on Saturday evening. The Bavarians are back in competitive action a week on Sunday in the Bundesliga meeting with struggling Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena.
Lahm, Alaba and Costa return
Guardiola made three changes to his starting line-up compared to the 1-0 victory away to Hannover on Matchday 17 in December last year. David Alaba, Douglas Costa and skipper Philipp Lahm all returned from lay-offs and took over from Javi Martinez, Arturo Vidal and Rafinha, himself currently on the injury roster.
As well as Martinez and Vidal the visitors’ bench featured Tom Stake deputising for Sven Ulreich and the welcome sight of fit-again Arjen Robben returning to the matchday squad, but Franck Ribery, Mario Götze, Mehdi Benatia, and Juan Bernat remain out of contention for now.
The leaders began with Manuel Neuer in goal, a back four of Lahm, former Hamburg man Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber and Alaba, Alonso in the holding position, and a potent front five of Thiago, Costa, Kingsley Coman, Müller and Lewandowski.
One up at the break
After referee Felix Zwayer whistled play underway on a typically damp and cold January evening in the northern port city, Guardiola’s troops found themselves up against stern resistance from the side in tenth, who broke up the visitors’ customary attempts to build from the back with energetic pressing and zesty tackling.
The teams’ contrasting tactical approaches meant chances were practically non-existent in the first half, with the first actual shots both coming from Hamburg men: Neuer easily dealt with Hunt’s 13th-minute skidder, and Dennis Diekmeier shot wide midway through the first half.
But the champions signalled their intent with a half-chance for Lewandowski on the half-hour, and the Pole handed his side a precious half-time lead with a superbly despatched 37th-minute penalty after Adler took out Müller just inside the box as the Germany striker chased down Alonso’s through ball.
Lewy seals it after half-time
Adler got down sharply to save at the near post from Coman, Costa blasted a shade too high and Lewandowski fashioned a shot on the turn as Bayern started the second half brightly, but the home side levelled against the run of play in the 53rd minute, Alonso unluckily turning Hunt’s hopeful free-kick past Neuer under heavy pressure from Pierre-Michel Lasogga.
FCB suffered another setback three minutes later when Boateng pulled up following a challenge and immediately signalled he was unfit to continue, Martinez taking over at centre-back. The Spaniard was in the thick of it at once and had a hand in Munich’s 61st-minute second with the lay-off for Müller’s shot that Lewandowski deflected past Adler from ten yards out.
The leaders had the bit between their teeth now and Alaba crashed a direct free-kick off the post in the 66th minute, before Vidal took over from Müller for the last 20 minutes. Coman showed his marker a clean pair of heels but Costa was unable to convert the inviting cross, with Robben replacing Costa for the final nine minutes. Guardiola’s team stifled HSV’s late efforts at a rally and the game ended in an ultimately merited 2-1 away win.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley