10-Man Bayern Move On
SGL Arena, Augsburg – It wasn’t without controversy, but a Bavarian derby that lived up to its billing in every way once again saw FC Bayern Munich emerge victorious as they booked their place in the DFB Pokal quarter final at the expense of regional rivals FC Augsburg courtesy of a 2-0 scoreline.
End-to-end football, no frills defending and a healthy number of debatable decisions ensured this cup match left nothing to be desired, whilst proving that “pre-match predictions have no meaning,” according to Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes.
Mario Gomez and Xherdan Shaqiri grabbed the goals either side of Franck Ribéry’s unceremonious sending-off and, though Augsburg had threatened to crash Bayern’s Christmas party, they couldn’t find a way past, what debutant Alexander Manninger later described as, the “best team in the world”.
Just ten days had passed since the last time these two sides met, but while the scoreline might have been the same, this game had a completely different feel to it.
On a typically frosty December evening, the fans inside the SGL Arena were as vociferous as ever during the pre-match warm-up. “Respect yes, fear no,” was Marcel de Jong’s declaration in the match programme and it rang true of Augsburg’s performance during the opening exchanges.
The hosts set their stall as they looked to catch Bayern out in transition and, having absorbed the early pressure the record titleholders created, almost took an unlikely lead. Sascha Mölders rose highest to knock a raking cross-field ball into the path of Ja-Cheol Koo, whose first-time effort came back off the woodwork via a deceptive deflection and Manuel Neuer’s fingertips.
A vocal explosion signalled the passing of the 12:12 mark as the derby atmosphere took on a whole new dimension, which soon prompted Bayern to begin asserting their authority on proceedings. Ribéry and Bastian Schweinsteiger added some much-needed punch to their side’s early possession, but only the latter was able to force Manninger into a save.
Augsburg were certainly making their presence felt as their niggling fouls disrupted the visitors flow. However, after receiving some tough treatment, Ribéry responded in the best way possible, bursting past Ronny Philip to flash a ball across goal which Mario ‘five-yard’ Gomez finished with aplomb to put Bayern in front.
Tactically speaking Augsburg’s deep-lying backline was doing well to quell Bayern’s creativity in the final third, while at the other end the industrious Mölders twice forced Neuer to produce top saves to keep his side ahead.
On the stroke of half-time though, it was Bayern who went within inches of adding to the scoreline. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk’s long-range thunderbolt cannoned off the underside of the bar and over the line, an incident sure to reignite the ‘goal line technology’ debate in German football. However, with the goal not given, Manninger’s fine reflex save prevented Kroos netting on the follow-up, as the visitors had to settle for a one-goal lead in at the break.
Jupp Heynckes will have been calling for his side to keep their cool during half-time, but his team talk flew out the window when Ribéry picked up a straight red for raising his hand in an altercation with Koo, who was lucky to escape a similar punishment, less than three minutes after the restart.
With tempers threatening to flare referee Thorsten Kinhöfer was struggling to keep control as he began brandishing senseless bookings, which was akin to poking a raging bull with a hot cattle prod.
The dynamic of the encounter had changed as Augsburg began enjoying the lion’s share of possession, while Bayern were breaking forward at pace when presented with the opportunity. Clear-cut chances though, were few and far between.
It’s not often the record titleholders have their backs to the wall, but as the tension rose with every passing second, it certainly wasn’t the most comfortable of evenings for Bayern. Daniel Baier twice failed to find the target with speculative efforts, while Neuer capitalised on a moment of hesitancy from Torsten Oehrl to smother the ball at the feet of the striker when he looked certain to equalise.
Bayern weren’t just defending though with Augsburg riding their luck at the other end. Shaqiri’s deflected cross clipped the top of the crossbar before Manninger stuck out a hand to deny second-half substitute Mario Mandzukic one-on-one.
The hosts were risking everything in an attempt to force extra-time, but throwing numbers forward soon resulted in their downfall as Bayern’s quality told in the closing minutes. Simple, yet effective was the name of the game as Thomas Müller squared to an unmarked Shaqiri, who took one touch before tucking the ball past a helpless Manninger, wrapping up proceedings and booking Bayern’s place in the quarter finals of the DFB Pokal.
Augsburg have a tough winter ahead of them with a relegation battle to follow, but will not be demoralised by Tuesday nights result as they once again demonstrated their ability to cause opponents problems.
“It’s a shame that after 90 minutes we didn’t manage to score because that may have changed everything, but of course we were punished because that’s the thing with top teams, they don’t need as many chances to make it count,” said Manninger after the match. “However, with performances like that we can attack the second half of the season with a lot of hope, even if we know that we’re going to have to put in a lot of work.”
For Bayern it wasn’t the most convincing end to a calendar year, that has had its fair share of ups and downs, but it brings an end to what has been a near-perfect first half of the season for the side, who are desperate to pick up a title. The longer serving players are rediscovering their confidence, while the new signings have slotted in seamlessly, things we’ve already managed to surmise and which have seen them underline their ambitions in three different competitions.
Shaqiri, who joined from Basel over the summer, declared himself “happy” with what he’s managed to achieve in his first six months as a Bundesliga player after the match. “I try and perform to the best of my abilities in every game and that I’ve scored [in three different competitions] is nice of course, but I’d like to score more often,” stated the 21-year-old. “I’ve been given time on the pitch, I can say that I’ve contributed to the team’s success and the most important thing is that the team is successful.”
Club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummennige, meanwhile, was not overly enamoured with the refereeing performance which saw an “obvious” goal not awarded and an “unjustifiable” sending off. “To give a yellow card to the player that initiated the situation and a red to the other is a strange decision.” His sentiments were echoed by sporting director Matthias Sammer, who claimed he “wouldn’t have given a red card” taking into account that Augsburg had “permanently provoked” Ribery.
However, Bayern weren’t about get hung up on a minor blemish as the overriding positivity was there for all to see. In the words of the great KHR the team “can be pleased with the result and look optimistically towards the future”.