In a fashion never before witnessed in Germany, Bayern Munich clinched its 24th title on Tuesday with a 3-1 win against Hertha Berlin. It is the earliest concluded Bundesliga race in terms of date and matchday, Bayern becoming Germany's first ever March league champion.
The voices of the Bayern faithful echoed around the stadium as referee Marco Fritz blew the final game whistle. The Players came together, jumping in a circle as Pep Guardiola and hugged his coaching staff.
The Rekordmeister marched into the Olympiastadion in Germany's capital much like the way it stormed through the rest of the Bundesliga grounds, although something was different in the air. The passes were crisper, the shots were harder, the runs were more precise and the work rate was higher.
Toni Kroos opened the scoring after just six minutes, the ball falling to his right foot after Thomas Müller's cross was deflected near the goal line. Bastian Schweinsteiger served up Mario Götze just eight minutes later, drawing out Christoph Jancker before popping up a lob to Götze's head.
Adrián Ramos brought the match back into the balance after drawing and scoring a penalty. With the urgency meter cranked back to locomotive level, substitute Franck Ribery chipped a short-angle flick to restore a two goal lead, combining with Götze in a masterclass of skill.
The new-crowned meister have now won 19 league matches in a row, part of a 52-match unbeaten run that dates back to 2012. The trophy is already the third for first year manager Pep Guardiola, who is nevertheless chasing Jupp Heynckes's treble retirement party before the year is out.
Here are some thoughts on yet another dominant showing for Germany's powerhouse club:
- The flexible front of Müller, Götze and Robben provided Bayern with a lot of space, more than in past matches where Guardiola deployed that tactic. Each of the first half goals resulted from someone unmarked because of the divers positioning. Kroos was screaming out how much space he had before the ball eventually ricocheted his direction, and Schweinsteiger had acres of space to play the ball into Götze.
- Considering the three three might line up this way at the World Cup, it was an important impressive showing from Kroos, Schweinsteiger, and Lahm in the center of the park. Both Schweinsteiger and Kroos played fantastic deep play-making roles, while Lahm provided great support in possession out of the back. The way the three were positioned – Kroos and Schweinsteiger flanking Lahm – is the way the three should play together.
- The way a Bayern opponent presses has forcasted a lot of the Rückrunde matches Bayern has played. Hertha BSC at times only had Ramos providing some sort of high pressure, with Hajime Hasogai and Levan Kobiashvili more concerned with supporting the two replacement-level centerbacks Jos Luhukay was forced to field. The conservativeness hampered the long-ball based attack that Hertha BSC has come to rely on, leaving Ramos to fend off Dante and Boateng on his own.
- My stipulation is that it happens less in Germany than it does in other countries, and usually the ones that do it are foreign players. When a dive does happen, though, it has to be talked about, especially when it results in a penalty. The push Rafinha had on Ramos did not warrant the stumble the Colombian took, and luckily the result was merely just a consolation.
The replay of the match is available at 9:30 PM EDT on Gol TV and Super Soccer Channel 61, in case one were to have a hankering to watch the Bundesliga-clinching match a second time.