Bayern Munich stormed back to the top of the Bundesliga with a professional performance against an alarmingly weak and lacklustre Freiburg side. Mario Gómez and Franck Ribéry were the goal-getting stars of the show, but not one man in red had a bad game – something that can’t be said for their white-shirted opponents, who look set for a season-long relegation battle.
The home side took hold of possession immediately, their initial tactic being to get Franck Ribéry on the ball; either by him coming deep to collect it, or through being fed on the overlap. The Frenchman had the trickery, pace and guile to truly trouble Stefan Reisinger and Maximilian Nicu early on, but Freiburg took advantage of their energy tanks still being full by flooding back in droves and covering the balls which entered Oliver Baumann’s box.
Bayern, who didn’t have to press that hard to force turnovers whenever deep and panicky Freiburg got their hands on a loose ball, took just seven minutes to go 1-0 up. Leaving a huge gap outside the box for Bastian Schweinsteiger to take the ball in and have a look, no pressure was applied on the German international who picked out Thomas Müller on the box edge – surrounded by bodies, but taking possession as if he had all the space in the world. He slipped in Toni Kroos through the left-hand side of the box, and the youngster squared for a Mario Gómez tap in!
Freiburg coach Marcus Sorg threw caution to the wind after seeing his side fall behind, and they pretty much bossed possession for the ten minutes which followed the scoring being opened. With Julian Schuster sitting deep and offering cover alongside the nigh-on halfway-standing centre-backs, Sorg’s full-backs surged and stood in the opponents’ half, as Freiburg attempted to pass their way through Bayern. The policy was never going to and didn’t work, and things gradually became more direct.
In the 13th minute, for instance, Oliver Barth fired a pass upfield for Papiss Cissé’s diagonal dart in the shadow of the box. Realising he had been trailed by Holger Badstuber, the striker took a volley first-time on the spin, but the effort, despite making Manuel Neuer scramble, sailed wide. Two minutes later, Cédric Makiadi stretched his legs and burned down the left wing. But Phillipp Lahm timed a slide tackle from behind to absolute perfection, epitomising the fact that Bayern were and are a step above Freiburg in every area of the pitch.
With Nicu constantly going forward and nominal right-sided midfielder Makiadi tending to veer inside, the left channel was Bayern’s to storm down. And, in the 16th minute, a ball was pulled back for Schweinsteiger’s ghost, only for his connection to scare rather than punish Freiburg. The visitors altered their 4-1-4-1-cum-4-2-3-1-cum-4-1-3-2 in the 20th minute, trying to take advantage of the fact that Lahm was off the pitch receiving treatment for injury. Thus, Erik Jendrišek, giving his side more width than Makiadi, switched flanks with the Congolese international, attempting to catch ten-man Bayern out.
Alas, Freiburg’s own shape had been shoddy and uncertain from the first minute to the 26th, and it was with 19 minutes of the half remaining that the hosts’ scored their second of the game. Three members of the Freiburg defence were standing narrowly a fair few yards in front of the D as Bayern broke, but they looked uncomfortable and were guilty of ball-watching. Thus, when Gómez found a hole to slip through, it was his chance to set up a goal (credit to Kroos for the vision and execution of the releasing through-ball). His square, to Ribéry, initially seemed to have gone to waste when the Frenchman found Nicu in the way of the goal. But, just as it looked like all hope of adding to the Munich side’s lead was lost, the former Marseille midfielder nonchalantly back-heeled the ball in for 2-0!
Sorg’s side were offering so little in attack – due to being pressed, due to not having the quality and due to looking fearful – that the rookie coach’s opposite number Jupp Heynckes had no need to tell his attackers to drop back nearer to the defence and midfield bank of ‘2’ in their 4-2-3-1. The 2010 Bundesliga champions were toying with their guests, and controlling the game with class despite never really playing in a gear higher than third. With Freiburg now in a more familiar 4-1-4-1 (Makiadi and Johannes Flum behind Cissé, and Stefan Reisinger – who started the match as the support-striker – on the right wing), they isolated their lone forward and seemed determined to stay, timidly, in their own half. This allowed Bayern to involve players such as Rafinha in an attacking sense, and the Brazilian right-back had two chances from the outside the box on and around the 40-minute mark.
And, one minute later, it was the brilliant Ribéry who made it 3-0, thanks to a Rafinha cross from within the final-third. While he might have strayed offside a touch when making it 2-0, there was no doubt about the legality of Ribéry’s second and the team’s third goal, as the Frenchman took the deflected ball down in the box, knocked it masterfully by the defender trying to stop him getting nearer Baumann’s goal, before slotting in for a half-time lead of 3-0 (they finished the half with a 63% hold on possession too).
With two of his first-choice defenders missing from the starting XI and a paucity of imagination and fight in the attack, it was no surprise to see Sorg make changes for the second half in both areas. Mensur Mujdža, not fit enough to start, took the place of the positionally poor Nicu (who is, to be fair, a midfielder), and the lifeless Slovakian Erik Jendrišek left the pitch to be replaced by the club’s record buy, striker Garra Dembélé. The Malian joined Cissé (the man he was seemingly signed to replace) up top, as Makiadi moved out to the left, and Schuster up to the left side of centre-midfield in a 4-4-2.
However, Bayern soon took advantage of pushing-forward-in-three-banks-with-overlap-attempting-full-backs Freiburg by going 4-0 then 5-0 up in the 52nd and 54th minutes’ respectively. For the former, Schweinsteiger found space, knocked through a perfect pass for the infield-standing Ribéry, who, yep, squared for Gómez to tap in for 4-0. Moments later, Ribéry was fed in the trequartista position, pushed through a pretty weak and obvious through-ball for Gómez’s shimmy sideways, only for Barth’s attempted clearance to cannon off the knees of the in-form striker and loop over the helpless Baumann for 5-0!
The one-way traffic continued, as Bayern continued to flood forward via ever more elaborate methods: Schweinsteiger and Kroos were trying fancy pinball-flipper feet through-balls; Gómez was performing back-heel lay-offs; the full-backs were offering give-&-go manoeuvres. Despite this game being over, and Villareal coming up in the Champions League in the week, Heynckes only elected to make his first substitution in the 61st minute. Yet, that change saw Lahm come off for Diego Contento – Gómez, bizarrely, was allowed to stay on. There didn’t seem any reason for doing this, especially as the striker had been struggling with his fitness during the week, already had his treble of goals, and Takashi Usami and Nils Petersen need the game time.
Back to the game, and Freiburg were continuing along in their amateur fashion. Thomas Müller nearly made it six in the 63rd minute when a corner was floated to his standing position just off the D. The volley, however, was poor, despite not being shut down or stopped through someone covering the zone in the first place. This was especially unforgivable from Sorg and Freiburg’s point of view, as Bayern had tried the same trick a few times in the game already.
Dembélé made a long-awaited contribution to the game in the 69th minute, but this involved the striker overzealously slide-tackling Müller and giving away a penalty. Gómez was the man who stepped up to take the set-piece, and his inch and pace-perfect right-footer nestled into the bottom left-hand corner despite Baumann going the same way. However, there had been encroachment from Schweinsteiger as Gómez made his connection, so the penalty had to be taken again. Nevertheless, the oft-criticised forward made no mistake the second time round, this time burying it into the right-hand corner for 6-0.
At last, Heynckes gave Petersen a turn on the pitch, as the former Energie Cottbus forward took the place of four-goal hero Gómez. The 22-year-old was joined in the Bayern XI by David Alaba, who came on so as to help Ribéry rest up before Tuesday’s Spanish adventure. The changes were like-for-like, as the 4-2-3-1 remained the one deployed. But at this point in the game, Bayern were more concerned with killing the tempo and winding the clock down. Thus, they’d bring the ball into the opposition’s half, before knocking it about aimlessly. On the rare occasion a through-ball was delivered to Petersen, he didn’t always look like he was on the same wavelength as that of his pass-making world class colleagues, so failed to make a connection.
Bayern’s beleagured opponents were seeing proceedings out in a 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 – Dembélé on the left, and Makiadi occasionally flanking the service-starved Cissé centrally (his first half effort was as good as it had got for Freiburg, shot-wise). Petersen had no such problems, though, and made it 7-0 in stoppage time. Schweinsteiger showed up on the left, and with no one in white applying pressure, curled a distinctly average cross into a packed box. Despite having the numerical advantage, Freiburg’s players didn’t have the will or fight to clear the ball, nor the intelligence to keep an eye on Petersen. Stood alone in front of the goalkeeper, the ball somehow landed for him to cushion a volley into the net, making it a sweet seven for Bayern! Europe, are you watching?