Fabulous Franck Ribery inspired Bayern to easily their best performance since Christmas in a fully merited victory over fourth-placed Schalke on Sunday. The men in red played the Royal Blues off the park at times in an action-packed clash, and could easily have won by more in a welcome return to the awesome football of earlier this term.
The 69,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Jupp Heynckes’ men make much the brighter start to a brisk-paced encounter and take a deserved 36th-minute lead from a typical piece of Ribery brilliance. The home side were well worth their lead at the break, with only Schalke keeper Timo Hildebrand standing between FCB and a two or three-goal advantage.
Bayern maintained the onslaught after the restart and Ribery added a second before the hour was up, after which the home side dominated as they pleased and cruised to their 15th league victory of the season.
The deserved win means Munich regain second spot in the Bundesliga after 23 matches on 48 points, one behind Dortmund prior to the leaders’ evening kick-off at home to Hannover, and one ahead of Mönchengladbach, with Schalke now four points off FCB in fourth. The Bavarians are next in action on Saturday 3 March with a league trip to fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen.
Heynckes made two changes to the side beaten by Basel in the midweek Champions League clash, favouring Thomas Müller and Luiz Gustavo over Toni Kroos and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk. The Bayern team also featured two ex-Schalke men, keeper Manuel Neuer and right-back Rafinha.
The rest of the FCB line-up comprised Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber and captain Philipp Lahm in defence, David Alaba and Gustavo in the holding positions, Franck Ribery and Robben on the flanks, and Müller in the hole behind central striker Mario Gomez.
Schalke boss Huub Stevens kept faith with the team which required extra-time on Thursday before seeing off Viktoria Plzen in the Europa League, with former Germany keeper Timo Hildebrand in goal, and a potent forward line of Jefferson Farfan, former Spain superstar Raul, teen prodigy Julian Draxler, and 18-goal Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, joint top scorer in the Bundesliga with Gomez before kick-off.
Once referee Michael Weiner whistled play underway on a chilly and damp afternoon in the Bavarian capital, the sides wasted little time feeling each other out and a couple of range-finding crosses pinged in at either end, but the first gilt-edged chances fell to FCB, Müller drawing a fine save from Hildebrand after Alaba had nicked the ball off Schalke skipper Benedikt Höwedes’ toe, and the keeper then blocking Robben’s effort from the rebound.
Hildebrand saved from Robben again just a minute later, with Badstuber unable to force home the loose ball, and although Kyriakos Papadopoulos looped a header onto the roof of Neuer’s net, Munich increasingly seized the initiative and visibly grew in confidence as the match wore on. Müller dragged a shot across the face of goal and then flicked wide of the near post, before setting up Ribery on the half-hour for an effort which dribbled practically along the goal-line before being cleared to safety.
Neuer scrambled a Christoph Metzelder header to safety, but Bayern took a deserved lead after 36 minutes when Gustavo hustled Marco Höger off the ball and skilfully released Ribery, lurking just inside his own half to avoid straying offside. Hildebrand made his single misjudgement of the opening 45 minutes with a reckless dash from goal, allowing the France star to flick the ball over the keeper and side-foot into the empty net.
The goal sparked a fine spell from Bayern in the run-up to the interval, but Hildebrand atoned for his error by pushing Ribery’s next effort away for a corner and then producing an astonishing reaction block to deny Müller, Badstuber’s follow-up again rolling agonisingly wide. Neuer tipped Christian Fuchs’ belter over the bar, but Munich remained on the front foot and Hildebrand dived to push away a deflected Lahm shot in the final incident of the half.
The second half opened with thrilling action at both ends, Badstuber powering a header against the bar, Joel Matip racing clear in a one-on-one with Neuer but sliding his shot wide, Gomez firing into the side-netting, and Robben heading over, the last two chances both set up by the superb Ribery.
FCB kept up the relentless pressure, and although Gomez’ control let him down in the six-yard box, Ribery made it two on 55 minutes after exchanging passes with Müller, twisting in the box and angling an unstoppable shot, slightly deflected by Papadopoulos, across Hildebrand and in at the far corner.
Heynckes’ men took stock of the situation for a spell now and Huntelaar drifted a header harmlessly wide of the far stick, before Farfan screwed badly wide from an inviting position. The home side were still in control and sub Ivica Olic had the ball in the net with his first touch from Müller’s flick, but the Croat was whistled offside.
Schalke legs clearly became heavy in the closing stages and Bayern created chances almost at will, but desperate defending, the odd misplaced final pass and yet another fine Hildebrand save from Robben meant it stayed 2-0 until
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley
|Bayern Munich - FC Schalke 04 2-0 (HT: 1-0)|
|Bayern Munich||Neuer - Rafinha, Boateng, Badstuber, Lahm - Luiz Gustavo, Alaba - Robben, Müller (Tymoshchuk 89), Ribéry - Gomez (Olic 72)|
|Substitutes:||Butt, Pranjic, Can, Kroos, Petersen|
|FC Schalke 04||Hildebrand - Höwedes, Papadopoulos, Metzelder (Uchida 84), Fuchs - Matip (Holtby 65), Höger - Farfan, Raul, Draxler (Obasi 57) - Huntelaar|
|Referee:||Michael Weiner (Giesen)|
|Goals:||1-0 Ribéry (36), 2-0 Ribéry (55)|
|Yellow Cards:||Ribéry / Fuchs, Höger|