In the preview, we speculated that an ex-Hoffenheim man might get the start against his old club. Well, that part was true - but it was GK Tom Starke, rather than CM Luiz Gustavo, who got the surprise start. Otherwise, it was a strong line-up for Bayern, with Hoffenheim making more chances from the normal starting XI than us.
Bayern looked smarter in the first 10 minutes, but starting at about 13 or 14 minutes in, TSG threatened us a few times in the span of a couple minutes. First, from a set piece, 3 different Bayern players let a cross ooze past them and let Hoffenheim get a free blast from the far side. The ball just missed outside the post and struck the side netting. And the next few minutes saw both sides create chances, as Hoffenheim refused to sit back and play an all defensive game: it was end-to-end action and either side could have opened the scoring.
Bayern eventually reasserted control. Even though not a lot of chances were being manufactured, Bayern's passing game was smooth. We almost looked like a 2010 Barca side, with short passes stacked on top of one another and the ball moving into and back out of offensive positions. The break-through finally came with about 7 minutes to go in the half. Boateng made a good interception-to-long pass, and Ribery lobbed a perfect header to Mario Gomez, who soft-touched it over the line:
At first I thought this was a lucky goal. But looking at the replay, Mario knew exactly what he was doing. His second touch with the front foot put it just wide of where S-at-the-end-Gomes could have reached it. A hard shot there probably would have just planted it right in the 'keeper's face.
The second half saw both side have chances to score. Again, Bayern controlled possession and were superior, but Hoffenheim created runs in the opposite direction a few times. Starke was called upon to make a great save, which he did with a lunge to his upper-left side. Bayern's defenders made a few errors, including a poor turnover on an attempted pass by Alaba. But it was probably a good thing to get some practice on the "desperate clearance" type of plays. And either way, the win was definitely deserved, as Bayern could twice have scored on free kicks from Bastian Schweinsteiger. One hit the cross bar, and the other curled around Hoffenheim GK Gomes to jusssst miss the goal: it hit off the top corner and came straight down, almost ending up in the goal.
Not the brightest performance from Bayern, all things considered. If TSG had taken the lead in the 15th minute (which easily could have happened), you could see this ending up a 1-1 draw or worse. Even though Shaqiri is a great player with a ton of talent, it looks like the midfielders don't have the same kind of understanding with him. Mueller missed a chance to hit an open man when he over-struck a lob pass, and was generally quiet throughout. And other than Dante, I don't think any of the back line looked great (Lahm, because he was pushing forward pretty aggressively, Boateng and Alaba because they got caught ball-watching and let a dangerous run develop behind them). Some other thoughts:
- Our Gomez pulled up with a slight limp in the second half. He walked off under his own power, but looked definitely less than 100 percent. We'll update as soon as details become available.
- Dante has become the king of lunging headers to block hard line-drive shots. He had another one today, throwing his head directly in the way of a shot to keep Starke from having to make a save. It's a great ability and you can tell it frustrated opponent's shooters, though it's worth noting that a slight miscalculation will put one of those into our own net if he gets the angle wrong. But for me, Dante was MotM again.
- With the win, Bayern now sits again 17 points clear atop the table. We have the rare full-week off now, with the next match coming at home this Saturday. We'll be back this week to talk Lewandowski, Bundesliga news, the German national side, and anything else that develops. Thanks for reading.