Season review part two: Splendid comeback
The schedule after the winter break – once again with a training camp in Qatar – isn’t easy. Yet just like in the first half of the season, the hurdles of Hoffenheim and Stuttgart are navigated. It’s seven wins on the trot for Bayern when the 20thmatchday brings a trip to Leverkusen.
Against die Werkself it started out promisingly too. Goretzka headed Bayern 1-0 in front, and Lewandowski’s goal to double the lead before the break was narrowly disallowed by VAR. But then the Rekordmeister crumbled. Bailey from a free-kick and Volland on the counter turned the game around within ten minutes. Just before the end, Alario made it 3-1. Kovač had got himself into an end-to-end game, the speciality of Bayer’s new coach Bosz.
Only because Dortmund simultaneously didn’t manage to get more than a 1-1 in Frankfurt, BVB’s lead rose to justseven points. With just 13 games left it’s a challenge, but not impossible.
Because while Dortmund also dropped points against Hoffenheim and Nuremberg, Bayern won against Schalke and Augsburg. The game against the latter, however, became a battle of nerves on a Friday evening. Twice the heavy outsiders went in front, twice Coman equalised. In the second half it was then Alaba who won the game with a shot from distance. An unparalleled nail-biter.
Due to Dortmund’s 0-0 in Nuremberg on the Monday, there were now just three points between Bayern and their great rivals. With Berlin, Gladbach and Wolfsburg coming up, however, there were games against the exact teams who had caused problems in the first half of the season. What followed was a showing of strength from Bayern. A pointer to the whole country that the Bavarians still produce the nation’s best football team.
After a hard-fought 1-0 win against Hertha came a 5-1 exhibition in Gladbach and a 6-0 party against Wolfsburg, leaving Bayern to top the table for the first time since the fifth matchday. Not just nine points had been overhauled, but as well a goal-difference deficit of up to seventeen goals.
When Mainz were also taken apart 6-0 the week later, it was the first time Bayern had scored at least five times three games in a row. Lewandowski (5 goals), James (4), Gnabry (2) and Müller were the star architects of that run.
The game in Breisgsu against Freiburg was meant to be a run-of-the-mill game before the presumably decisive battle with Dortmund. And yet as is typical of this season things turned out differently. Of all people, Höler, the scorer in the home game against Freiburg, scored after three minutes to make it 1-0. The team is visibly shaken and is fortunate to escape conceding a second. Some individual play from Lewandowski rescues a draw.
In the parallel game, Dortmund are also on course for a draw for 90 minutes against Wolfsburg. But BVB want it more, more than Bayern that Saturday too, and they manage it. In added time it’s Alcácer once more who notches twice. Dortmund are once again standing at the top of the pile.
Everything pointed to a big game in Munich. For the Rekordmeister it was already a little final. A defeat would let Dortmund’s lead rise to five points. The atmosphere in the week before the game was as nervous as you would expect. To add to that, Bayern had to withstand 90 tense minutes against Heidenheim in the cup – not optimal conditions.
And yet from the very first minute it was obvious that this Saturday only one team would leave the pitch as victors and thus table-toppers. With a strong performance, albeit aided by some errors from Dortmund, it was a deserved 5-0. An exhibition. Another change in leadership at the top.
In the next two games against Düsseldorf and Bremen, two must-win games were indeed won, and then suddenly on the 31stmatchday the ball was at Bayern’s feet. On Saturday Dortmund had lost 4-2 in a stormy derby against Schalke. FC Bayern just had to beat Nuremberg and the lead would stretch to four points.
Yet just like BVB on the 22ndmatchday, Bayern’s rivals from Franconia fought hard. Too hard for a passive Bayern who were even ultimately fortunate that Leibold missed a penalty. The lead had grown to two points, but you couldn’t shake the feeling that important points had been thrown away.
Then came the game against bottom side Hanover. An opponent who would have been coolly sent packing with a 6-0 in the strong period earlier in the year. But the fluency had been lost since the Dortmund game. Against ten men, Bayern battled to a 3-1 win. Assistance came from an old friend as well, however. The 40-year-old Pizarro completed Bremen’s comeback against Dortmund. 2-2. Draw. Four points. Two game left…
A win in Leipzig would have allowed the side to celebrate the title early. But exactly two weeks before the two teams would face each other in Berlin for the cup final, the tie in the east didn’t bring forth a victor. Put the champagne on ice.
For the first time since the 2008/09 season, there was a realistic chance that the trophy would change hands on the last matchday. At the time FC Bayern hadn’t been able to claw back a two-point deficit behind VfL Wolfsburg. This time a point against Europa League high-flyers Frankfurt would be enough.
The game would also be the last appearance for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry in front of the home crowd. The wide duo, who had conquered the Bundesliga and then Europe together since 2009, were on their way out. Preferably with a trophy in hand.
The match against Frankfurt would provide a Hollywood ending to the season and Robbery’s career. 5-1 after 90 minutes in which the fans had to worry for a mere three points after Frankfurt’s equaliser. After that the afternoon turned into a red and white party. Ribéry and Robben were both granted their crowning final goals. It wasn’t only Uli Hoeneß who was in tears at this Hollywood ending.
At the end of the season, the seventh title in a row was sealed. It was the very first title to be sealed at the Allianz Arena. Previously it had always either been sealed on the road over in front of the TV. Another curiosity: it was the 28thtitle in the 56thBundesliga season. Bayern, then, have been champions as often as the rest of the teams put together.