Given that a team with 35 points in 13 matches faced one that had won just twice in the league this season, Torsten Lieberknecht's side certainly had their work cut out for them ahead of this match. And yet Pep Guardiola recognised this game as a potential banana skin after the euphoria of victory against Dortmund, coming against a Braunschweig side that will be highly motivated to drag themselves out of the relegation zone.
With Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Ribery, Shaqiri, Pizzaro, Contento, and Badstuber all out through injury, this game was also a test of Bayern's extraordinary strength in depth, leading to starts for Daniel Van Buyten and Thiago Alcantara. Mandzukic was still contending with calf problems before this match, so Mario Götze once again took on the role of false nine for the beginning of today's game. Götze continued to visibly grow in confidence after that goal against Moscow, covering a lot of ground as he created space with some nifty footwork while allowing Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben to drift into advanced positions ahead of him.
This combination came into effect before the two-minute mark as Robben ran onto a long ball for the first goal of the game. After a deft first touch, the Dutch forward's first effort hit the post before fortuitously bouncing back towards him, and he made no mistake second time around as he headed into an open net.
It will, of course, come as no surprise that die Roten dominated possession after this speedy opener. Braunschweig set up with one central striker and pressed hard in patches before sitting in their own half – an approach we've seen a number of teams adopt against the Bundesliga champions in an attempt to stifle their passing game. This tactic didn't stop Bayern's possession statistics from hovering around the 80% mark as they played the usual patient game of waiting to find gaps in their opponents' defensive lines.
Still, there were few concrete chances after Robben's early goal, with Dante coming close with a header on 19 minutes that was headed off the line. Bayern's attempts at overly intricate passing often resulted in a last-ditch tackle or a misplaced short ball. Instead, it was more brilliant simplicity that prevailed for Bayern's second, namely another long ball – this time from Kroos – coupled with some individual brilliance from Arjen Robben as he darted to his left to fire past keeper Daniel Davari.
At the other end of the pitch, most of Braunschweig's best offensive work during the first half came through the energetic Karim Bellarabi on the right wing. It was quickly snuffed out by a defensive line led by an excellent performance from Dante, but nevertheless gave David Alaba something to think about as he looked more hesitant than usual roaming forward.
After the break, Bayern were very nearly caught napping as Braunschweig threatened through Marco Caliguri's awkward, deflected shot on goal. Caliguri and Bellarabi later worked together to win a corner that offered a chance for Braunscheig to get back into this game as centre-back Bicakcic very nearly capitalised with an outstretched leg, prompting Mandzukic's arrival for the quiet Müller as Guardiola looked to add stability to an offensive unit that began to look slightly more ragged as the game wore on.
Robben, looking for his hat-trick, curled a free-kick onto the bar on 71 minutes before a few more moments of frantic play worried the home side. A well-placed through-ball saw Neuer lunge at Domenick Kumbela outside the penalty area, while more risky play from the goalkeeper forced David Alaba into a spectacular block from Bellarabi's long-range shot.
Kumbela continued to cause problems with his runs into the box, and the game became an increasingly exciting, open affair towards the end of the match – Bayern's ball retention was less consistent, both sides racked up niggling fouls, and Javi Martinez lost a shoe. Luck remained on Bayern's side in the final minutes, though, as Bellarabi's free kick ricocheted off the Bayern wall and crashed into the crossbar, denying Braunschweig a deserved goal as the game ended 2-0.
You get the sense that a more energetic first-half performance from Braunschweig could have made this victory less comfortable for the Bavarians, but it was encouraging to see how Bayern managed to respond to their opponents' increased threat with faster, more incisive moves going forward. After recording an 18th home win in a row in the absence of several key players, every statistic seems to speak volumes about this side's efficacy under Guardiola this season.
Bayern will look to maintain their four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga when they face Werder Bremen next weekend, with progression to the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal depending on a trip to Augsburg on Wednesday.
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