Bayern made light of their midweek marathon against Gladbach and moved to within two points of Bundesliga leaders Dortmund with a narrow but fully merited home win over Hannover on Saturday. Jupp Heynckes’ men were clearly the better team until heavy legs set in towards the end, but Munich showed great courage and resilience to seal the victory.
The 69,000 sell-out crowd at the Allianz Arena saw the home side invest plenty of energy and aggression against the well-organised visitors, and take a 36th-minute lead through Toni Kroos, the midfielder’s fourth goal of the campaign.
The men in red could easily have added another goal or two in a good phase running up to half-time, and Mario Gomez smacked a shot against the post straight after coming on as a 61st-minute sub, but the super striker soon found his range and doubled the lead seven minutes later. Didier Ya Konan pulled one back a quarter-hour from time as the home side finally ran out of steam, but Munich dug deep, weathered the storm and sealed a potentially crucial victory.
The result takes Bayern onto 57 points from 27 matches, cutting Dortmund’s advantage to two points and turning up the pressure prior to the league leaders’ appointment in Cologne on Sunday evening. The Reds now switch their focus to the Champions League and Wednesday’s quarter-final trip to Olympique Marseille, before returning to the bread and butter of the Bundesliga on Saturday 31 March away to Bavarian rivals Nürnberg.
Given the energy-sapping 120-minute DFB Cup semi-final against Mönchengladbach in midweek, the looming trip to Marseille on Wednesday, and with Bastian Schweinsteiger still unfit, Heynckes rotated his line-up for the first time in five matches, handing Danijel Pranjic a first start of the season in place of Thomas Müller, and preferring Ivica Olic to Gomez.
There were no changes in defence, with Manuel Neuer in goal, and Philipp Lahm, David Alaba, Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng forming the back four. Pranjic took up station in central midfield alongside Luiz Gustavo, with Toni Kroos in an advanced position, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben out wide, and Olic as the lone striker.
Keen to improve his club’s atrocious record in Munich of just one win and two draws in 22 visits, Hannover supremo Mirko Slomka went for an attacking formation with Norway striker Mohammed Abdellaoue and Senegal man Mame Diouf up front, and the guile of former FCB schemer Jan Schlaudraff in reserve on the bench.
After referee Guido Winkmann whistled play underway on an overcast afternoon in Munich, Robben set up Lahm for the first chance of the day, but the full-back’s cross was blocked by Christian Pander. Kroos then set up a good chance for Olic, but the Croat needed too long to bring the ball down and shot straight at Hannover keeper Ron-Robert Zieler.
Slomka’s men stood their ground for a time after that, before the match exploded into life on 20 minutes. Lahm darted past Pander and delivered a perfect cut-back towards Ribery, only for the Frenchman to drag his shot from 10 yards wide of Zieler’s far post. At the other end, Neuer ran into difficulties dealing with Boateng’s back pass, allowing Diouf to steal possession on the edge of the six-yard box, but Badstuber blocked and Neuer then redeemed himself with a brave save.
FCB needed a minute or two to recover from the let-off, but Ribery initiated the opening goal on 36 minutes with a shimmy to outfox USA veteran Steven Cherundolo. The FCB winger found Robben on the edge of the box, the Dutchman back-heeling into the path of Kroos, who coolly chipped over the advancing Zieler and into the empty net.
Bolstered by the lead, Bayern went for it in the run-up to the break, but Zieler guessed correctly and plucked Robben’s lob out of the air, before Olic twice missed golden opportunities to settle it before half-time, Zieler first nicking the ball off the Croat’s foot, and the striker then missing his kick in front of an empty net after a superb exchange of passes between Robben and Kroos.
Ribery seemed to be pushed in the box by Austria international Emanuel Pogatetz in the first incident after the restart, but Mr Winkmann instead chose to penalise the attacker. Sergio Pinto blasted a rare Hannover opening well wide of Neuer’s goal, before Pranjic gave way to Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Gomez took over from Olic for the last half-hour.
Gomez almost made an instant impression with a cracking shot off the post with his first intervention, the ball bouncing off Zieler’s back and along the goal line, where it was hoofed clear by Pogatetz. The striker went one better on 68 minutes with a glorious finish from Kroos’ fine through ball, the Germany striker twisting inside Pander and rolling his shot across Zieler and in at the far stick.
It looked all over at this point, but Slomka had sent on his attacking subs and Ya Konan pulled one back after 75 minutes with an acrobatic overhead kick after Diouf beat Boateng to Schlaudraff’s whipped cross. Müller replaced Kroos with 12 minutes to play, but FCB were fortunate when Diouf headed over from Lars Stindl’s centre.
The closing phase was hard work for the tiring men in red, Neuer pulling off a superb diving save to prevent Boateng scoring an unlucky own goal, but there was action at the other end too as Cherundolo slid to stop Müller slotting home after the striker rounded Zieler, and Gomez whistled a header inches wide as the Reds brought home a very hard-earned three points.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley
|Bayern Munich - Hannover 96 2-1 (H-T: 1-0)|
|Bayern Munich||Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Badstuber, Alaba - Luiz Gustavo, Pranjic (Tymoshchuk 57) - Robben, Kroos (Müller 78), Ribéry - Olic (Gomez 61)|
|Substitutes:||Butt, Contento, Rafinha, Petersen|
|Hannover 96||Zieler - Cherundolo, Eggimann, Pogatetz, Pander - Schmiedebach, Pinto (Schlaudraff 61) - Stindl, Rausch - Abdellaoue (Ya Konan 66), Diouf|
|Referee:||Mr Winkmann (Kerken)|
|Goals:||1-0 Kroos (36), 2-0 Gomez (68), 2-1 Ya Konan (74)|
|Yellow Cards:||Pranjic / Cherundolo, Ya Konan|