Harding’s Hark - The Inside Story: Nothing New About Bayern in New Year
The Bundesliga awoke from its slumber on Friday night, as the opening game of 2014 saw defending champions Bayern Munich earn a 2-0 victory over third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach. Sports Editor Jonathan Harding reviews the return of domestic football in Munich.
A four-week break and a tactical experiment gone wrong in Salzburg left the bold and brash Borussia Mönchengladbach wondering whether now was the time to stop the juggernaut that is Bayern Munich. After Mario Götze narrowly missed the target inside the opening few minutes, it seemed as though Gladbach still hadn’t realised who they were playing. After seven minutes, Götze got his angles right and the visitors were ahead. Normal service had been resumed.
The hosts worked hard but to little avail as Bayern implemented their heavy possession game. Touch, pass, move. It was hard to watch a side as astute as Gladbach struggle to find an answer, but such is the nature of the Bayern beast. Favre bellowed and the home crowd roared for something more. First Max Kruse responded, then Juan Arango, but Manuel Neuer denied them both, tipping Kruse’s blistering effort onto the post.
Much has been made of the goalkeeping talent on show in the Bundesliga and the soon-departing Marc-Andre ter Stegen was not to be out-performed by the ‘World Goalkeeper of the Year.’ The younger German goalkeeper made a strong save from a long-range Thomas Müller effort, before getting up to deny Thiago and then Götze twice. The flurry of action in the box ended in a somewhat unsurprising handball and Müller’s eyes from the spot were enough. 2-0.
Patrick Herrmann, one of the players the Manchester United manager David Moyes was supposedly in the stands to see, finally beat Neuer with a low range half volley only to see the woodwork deny him.
Recent birthday-boy (30) Arjen Robben returned for the final ten minutes but there was to be no final flourish. A typical Arbeitssieg (working win) for Bayern, who were once again buoyant in possession and quick on the break, if a little short on composure. Gladbach grew frustrated with the ineffective nature of their sporadic threats, but this is Bayern and sporadic just isn’t enough.
And just like that the Bundesliga seemed to return to its slumber, almost annoyed at having been woken for a couple of hours on Friday night. The league leaders return next Wednesday night when they play their catch-up game from the end of the first half of the season (delayed due to their Club World Cup participation) away against Stuttgart. It’s clear 2014 will be Guardiola’s year. His team are setting weekly records, playing dominant football and now hold an overnight ten-point lead at the top of the league. Oh and the donning of an oversized, baggy scarf surely completes Pep’s German integration. Personally, I blame Mario.