FCB aim to add ‘another two or three percent’
Bayern made light of the two-week international break and returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over third-placed Hannover 96 on Saturday. The treble winners have extended their club record to 30 consecutive Bundesliga matches without defeat, and also warmed up well for Tuesday's opening Champions League group stage fixture.
However, the 71,000 crowd at the Allianz Arena saw the men from Munich struggle for fluency in the first half against defensively disciplined opponents, who conceded hardly any clear-cut goalscoring opportunities and created a couple of decent chances on the break. “We were a bit careless in certain situations, we lost possession a couple of times too often, and on two occasions we were lucky Hannover didn't score," commented Thomas Müller. “We were reasonable when we attacked, but we lacked a little determination."
“Hannover put up a good fight. We knew we'd have to shift up a gear in the second half," remarked Toni Kroos. Pep Guardiola's team were a different proposition after half-time, clearly inspired by the tireless support from the stands and terraces. “That's how it has to be!" said Müller, reflecting on 90 minutes of cheering and encouragement from the capacity crowd. Bayern's increased efforts led to the home side camping out around their opponents’ goal, controlling 68 percent of the possession, and ultimately scoring the decisive goals.
Arjen Robben and Kroos combined superbly for Mario Mandzukic to open the scoring on 51 minutes with his third goal of the season, before Franck Ribéry sealed an ultimately deserved victory after 64 minutes. “Even for the visiting coach, Bayern's first goal was mouth-watering and a first-class move," said ‘96 boss Mirko Slomka afterwards. “In the second half, the quality of Bayern's individual players was made to count," added Hannover chairman Martin Kind.
“But it was a tough job of work," remarked Müller following his side's fourth league win of term. “Naturally we can do better than that, but the only thing that matters at the start of the season is winning," noted Kroos, “victories like today's will help us improve." It has often been the case that the packed schedule in the early autumn has been the spark for FCB teams of the past to find their rhythm and improve with every passing match.
Matthias Sammer believes it will happen again this year. “I'm delighted we've won," the sporting director said afterwards, but he was less pleased with the way the victory was earned. “We were sometimes lethargic, we played football with no emotion, we did the bare minimum required of us," thundered Sammer, “but that's not enough for the standard of football we want to play."
When Russian table-toppers CSKA Moscow come to Munich on Tuesday, Sammer is expecting “a different attitude" from the team. “The players have to show more emotion and passion, and summon up the last two or three percent we lack at the moment. We have to escape a certain comfort zone and mutually inspire each other." If so, the champions of Europe will surely make a successful start to their title defence.