In a showcase match for German football and a match that lived up to the hype, Bayern Munich defeated Werder Bremen on Saturday afternoon at the Weserstadion. The full highlights are now at the end of the post.
It was a match that demonstrated that thin distinction between star and superstar in the battle between Arjen Robben and Mesut Özil. Robben might have seen that battle come to a stalemate, were it not for a majestic Freistoss goal. Some will call it a Wiese mistake, some will call it a cross attempt that went in the net (would have gone in if it were a cross as well), but I choose to see it as a perfect moment when a superstar creates the imbalance between a good team and a great team. Robben celebrated his 26th birthday on Saturday, and demonstrated a simple, mature maxim: persistence pays off.
After Robben’s painful miss off the post in the opening moments (a twin to Gomez’s effort against Hoffenheim), the early game flow went much as I had expected. Bayern had trouble getting the ball out of the defensive end, despite moments of daylight. Butt’s clearances looked sickly to say the least, and while Marin’s 1-2 with Hunt for the first Bremen goal was good stuff, I thought Butt might have kept it out. We’d have to wait until have halftime to discover exactly why Butt seemed off his game–he was another casualty of the flu bug that sidelined Claudio Pizarro and was replaced by Michael Rensing, (who probably also immediately contracted some discomfort in his intestinal area) at halftime. Hats off to Rensing though, he was satisfactory in a tough spot, and he had no chance on the Almeida goal.
*Mario Gomez probably helped Bayern’s first 2 goals in by *not* doing something. He may have got an edge of the heel on Schweini’s entry pass, but letting it through to Müller was the right move. On Lahm’s ball in, Wiese came out, but restraining the impulse to hack at it allowed it to come through to Olic, Maybe he got a touch on that one too, but I didn’t think so.
*Missed chances were the order of the day for Bayern, especially in the first half. Gomez, Olic, Schweini and Robben all might have had scores with better efforts. Daniel Van Buyten almost unbelievably missed one late. Both Van Gaal and Robben would bemoan the failure to “score 10 goals”. Ok, so they’re feeling confident right now. But they do have reason to be. Many will bemoan the missed chances, but I’ll wait until they cost us a match to really get steamed.
*Mesut Özil was fantastic in this match. Though he didn’t have a role in the scoring, he spun, dribbled and outwitted 2 and 3 Bayern defenders at a time. He made Badstuber look like only part of his name a few times and was a constant threat. Schweinsteiger fared a little better, which was a positive sign, something I was looking for.
*It was not the best match for two aging midfielders, Torsten Frings and Mark van Bommel. You can’t say Frings rose to the challenge today, and Bayern penetrated deep into the Bremen half with regularity. Meanwhile, Özil had a step, maybe two, on Van Bommel all day long. It was classic Van Bommel in the 40th minute when he took Aaron Hunt’s knee out from under him, and wondered how it possibly could have been a bookable offense.
*The match was well officiated, if not perfectly. They missed a Schweini hand ball, and I thought Bayern was denied one corner that was rightfully theirs, but Herr Kircher let them play. There was no hesitation on the Marin goal scored when he was offside. I continue to think that the officiating in the Bundesliga this season is improved, and certainly a lesser referee would have hurt the pace of what was a tremendously flowing match for much of the 90 minutes.
*You won’t often say that defenders for a team that allowed 3 goals played well, but I agree with A Kap in his prior comment below, Clemens Fritz was terrific today. Even after the introduction of Ribery, Bayern’s attack ran down the right side on most approaches. Abdennour wasn’t great, but he wasn’t a total pushover in a tough assignment against Robben.
Robbery partially foiled
If the match had gone 3:1 before Ribery had come on, I really believe that LvG would have left him on the bench. As it was, he never really integrated himself well into the action. Nevertheless, his one effort on goal was a scorcher, parried by Wiese nicely. Next week ought to offer Ribery a better chance for getting back up to speed.
For absent friends
*In Nürnberg, Andreas Ottl and Breno both played 90 minutes as Der Club drew with Eintracht Frankfurt, 1-1. Neither figured prominently in the goal scoring plays. Meanwhile Luca Toni lasted 9 minutes (symbolism?) in Torino and promptly got injured again, as Roma joined the “cool like us” club, beating Juve 1-2.
The Satchel Paige Department
There’s been an awful lot of hand-wringing about Leverkusen, but here come Dortmund. This is a team whose defensive prowess is really not in question, and they seem to have found their scoring touch. Let’s not forget Kloppo is the right coach to take a team on a double digit unbeaten streak too. This could be a 1st place vs 2nd place match in three weeks time.
Give ‘em a hand
For a game played mostly with the feet, we had a spate of hand injuries today. Ivica Olic, thought at first to be imitating Franck Ribery’s “I’m on fire” goal celebration from the Bayern Offside “Goal of the Decade”, was later found to have just jammed his fingers against the goal post while scoring Bayern’s second from point blank range. Then we had a coaching hand injury from this:
So what the hell happened there? Well, there was some controversy about that, so I thought I’d leave it up to my readers to decide. Let us know what exactly happened to Louis van Gaal below.
Full highlights here: