MARIO Gómez netted his first goal of the 2012/13 campaign as Bayern Munich strolled to victory against a lacklustre Hannover side. Admittedly, Mirko Slomka’s team had finished a Europa League tie against Dutch outfit FC Twente just over 40 hours before this afternoon’s German league game kicked off, but, mentally as well as physically, his side were second-best and disinterested all over the pitch. Jupp Heynckes’ Champions League silver-medallists barely had to get out of second gear all game. Thanks to athletic goals from Toni Kroos and Javi Martínez, Bayern were comfortably 2-0 up with the points in the bag with just over a quarter of the match gone. Franck Ribéry added a third before half-time, Dante made it 4-0 in the 62nd minute, before Gómez made it 5-0 a mere 26 seconds after coming on as a substitute! Today’s result helped Bayern extend their lead at the top of the table to nine points; aided by Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt playing out a draw.
Save for the odd flash of genius and incision from Lars Stindl, Hannover lacked any sort of cutting edge or creation at the Allianz Arena. Thus, some might deem Slomka’s decision to leave Jan Schlaudraff – a rabbit-out-of-the-hat type of midfielder-cum-attacker – on the bench throughout today’s match, let alone not starting the 29-year-old, a mystifying decision. One can only assume Slomka figured it wasn’t worth risking Schlaudraff in a game against his former employers, against whom he likely has a point to prove after a disappointing spell at the Allianz Arena several seasons back. With Greuther Fürth and Mainz to come in the next week, games from which Hannover should take six points, perhaps Slomka was just being canny and far-sighted. Bayern, meanwhile, who have won 22 of their last 24 games against Hannover in Munich, go to Freiburg on Tuesday, before hosting Borussia Dortmund next weekend. Jürgen Klopp’s reigning champions moved up to second spot in 1. Bundesliga today after winning at Mainz, and it is imperative that they get something from that showdown in Munich. If Dortmund play anything like Hannover did today, though, they won’t stand a chance.
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Dante, Holger Badstuber, David Alaba; Martínez, Bastian Schweinsteiger; Thomas Müller, Kroos, Ribéry; Mario Mandžukić
Hannover (4-4-2, from right to left): Ron-Robert Zieler; Steve Cherundolo, Mario Eggimann, Karim Haggui, Konstantin Rausch; Lars Stindl, Manuel Schmiedebach, Sérgio Pinto, Szabolcs Huszti; Mame Biram Diouf, Artur Sobiech
Hannover sat deep and narrow throughout the opening ten or so minutes, allowing the home side to boss that period with slick and quick passing, good interchangeability, and effective use of the flanks. Given the assuredness with which they started from the first peep of referee Felix Zwayer’s whistle, it was no surprise to see Bayern take the lead inside three minutes. A Kroos corner-kick from the right flank was swung deep towards the rear end of the six-yard box; an area where too many white-shirted Hannover players descended towards in a bid to make a clearance. However, Schweinsteiger got there first, headed the ball back across goal, where Martínez was on hand to net his first goal for his new employers; the Spaniard beating Zieler from a few yards out with an unchallenged overhead kick!
Post-goal, Bayern didn’t let up, and Hannover didn’t seem to have the energy, creativity or spirit to rally. The home side were splitting the visitors’ two banks of four with ease, and always seemed to have several options down the flank, or players in the centre wanting to take part in the one-touch keep-ball. From the time of Martínez’ goal to the quarter-hour mark, Bayern only managed to create and take a few half-chances: however, none of the league-leaders’ efforts really caused Zieler any trouble.
In the 16th minute, Hannover got the opportunity to lump a free-kick into the box, but very few visiting players seemed to want to attack the ball; and so, as per the previous 15 minutes, one of the away side’s very few attempts at holding onto possession or territory broke down within a few seconds of beginning. At this point of the game, Diouf was playing nearer to the midfield than Sobiech, who was ploughing a very lonely furrow up front. Two minutes after the wasted set-piece, Slomka encouraged his players to get acquainted with and confident on the ball, thus leading to some melina between the defenders and midfielders in Hannover’s half. The home side took the chance to have a breather here, only really beginning to press in a close-together 4-1-3-2 when the ball got within a few yards of the halfway line. However, the swashbuckling Stindl was fed at the end of this particular period of Hannover keep-ball, and managed to carry possession towards the final-third by himself, winning a free-kick in the process. Huszti swung an inviting and perfectly-weighted ball into the box, which Diouf met with his head. Neuer watched the ball sail by, helpless and stranded on the other side of the goal, but the Senegalese striker’s effort went just wide.
The chance did, at least, spark Hannover into life. In the 21st minute, the talismanic Stindl drifted infield, collected the ball, spun on it, and launched a bottom right-hand corner-bound right-footed thunderbolt. Alas, Neuer just managed to turn the effort around the post. Bayern cleared the resultant corner-kick, but the visitors held the second-ball on the flank, before Mandžukić clattered into Huszti, picking up a yellow card for his efforts.
That period, unfortunately, was as good as it got for Hannover in the first-half. In the 23rd minute, they shot themselves in their collective foot once again, leaving a red-shirted player unmarked in the box to acrobatically add to the Bavarian giants’ tally. This time, Bayern had held the ball on the right flank for 30 to 45 seconds or so, knocking it about, feigning subjugation to Hannover’s multi-body defensive net thrown over Lahm and Müller on that side of the pitch. However, a quick exchange gave Lahm a chink through which to hurriedly swing a scooped-pass over to the D, where Kroos was stood all alone. The 22-year-old produced a half-volley, half-overhead kick effort that was never going anywhere but the back of the net for 2-0! The myopic Hannover back four were stood several yards in front of Kroos in the box – narrow and straight as a unit, but failing to respond to the danger, as they were too occupied by the presence of Ribéry and Mandžukić nearer the goal. The intelligent Kroos, though, was primarily taking advantage of centre-midfielders Pinto and Schmiedebach being out on the flank to try and swamp Bayern’s crosser, Lahm. A simple goal, therefore, but one that Slomka will no doubt realise was just as simple to defend!
In the ten minutes contested after Bayern Munich’s second goal, very little happened, with neither side exerting much energy or attacking with the proverbial full arsenal of guns blazing. Diouf was playing more of a hanging-on-the-last-shoulder role at this stage, but was getting little in the way of service from his colleagues. But, on the few occasions Hannover did manage to feed the former Manchester United attacker, it was Alaba who always proved to be Diouf’s nemesis – the young Austrian defending with muscle, intelligence and impeccable timing in at least three duels between the pair. The home side also broke in numbers on the petrified-looking visiting defence on a number of occasions during this period, but 2-0 up and cruising, were often too casual with the final ball.
In the 37th minute, though, it was 3-0. The build-up to the strike began when Pinto was caught differing in possession in his own half. Schweinsteiger made a good, upright tackle, and released Müller, who had been hovering near to his German national teammate, along with Ribéry and Mandžukić, the Frenchman and Croat completing the close-knit quartet. With Hannover’s defence misshapen and failing to readjust quickly enough, Müller was able to dribble upfield and delay before making a through-ball to Ribéry, who launched a well-timed and disguised burst through the D to get on the end of the 23-year-old’s pass, before dispatching the ball past a helpless Zieler!
A furious-looking – and presumably feeling – Slomka instantly made a personnel change, despite half-time being just around the corner. Off came a shellshocked Schmiedebach, on in his place coming Christian Schulz (a like-for-like substitution). Until the break, Bayern continued to monopolise possession with the handbrake on – all Heynckes’ full-backs, midfielders and attackers still making finding and moving into space look so, so easy, as well as every outfield player wanting to get on the ball, and not using possession wastefully. In the 44th minute, Stindl – the away side’s busiest and most enterprising and interested player by a mile in the first-half – again launched a mazy dribble infield, winning a free-kick rather easily thanks to a silly and needless shove from Martínez. As if to sum up Hannover’s half, Huszti tamely curled the effort into the wall. It’s hard to imagine Slomka’s side having played a more limp half of football than the one seen today in the first 45 minutes in Munich.
Formations that started the second-half
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Neuer; Lahm, Dante, Badstuber, Alaba; Martínez, Schweinsteiger; Müller, Kroos, Ribéry; Mandžukić
Hannover (4-4-2, from right to left): Zieler; Cherundolo, Eggimann, Haggui, Rausch; Stindl, Pinto, Schulz, Huszti; Mohammed Abdellaoue, Diouf
Slomka made another substitute for the second-half: not that that stopped the Bayern juggernaut, which went close to increasing it lead in the opening few minutes through two Mandžukić headers. The 45-year-old Hannover coach – who introduced Neuer into the Schalke first-team during his stint on the sidelines at the Veltins Arena – made another like-for-like change, replacing the ineffective Sobiech with Norwegian striker Abdellaoue. But it was down the other end of the pitch where a centre-forward was seeing all the action, as Mandžukić – desperate to make his mark with Gómez back on the bench after missing all 12 1. Bundesliga matches of the 2012/13 campaign played before today’s encounter with injury – again went close, just failing to get on the end of a chance created by some good interplay between Kroos and Ribéry.
In the 56th minute, Hannover tried some more melina in a bid to try and kill the Bayern momentum, and also to build up some of their own. However, the hosts pressed sedulously and energetically, again forcing Hannover into regular and cheap giveaways. The visitors conceded their fourth goal of the afternoon, though, from another set-piece. Kroos curled in a free-kick from the right flank in the 62nd minute, and Dante easily rose above Schulz at the back-post to head home his first Bayern goal!
Two minutes later, Heynckes made his first change, replacing a disappointed-looking Mandžukić with Gómez, who received a tremendous reception from the home fans. With one of his very first touches of the ball, the 27-year-old made it 5-0; easily evading Haggui before applying a superb finish to a passing move that heaped yet more misery on an utterly dejected and deflated Hannover side!
Heynckes took the chance to rest some of his star players after the fifth goal, replacing Müller and Schweinsteiger with Xherdan Shaqiri and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk. The substitutions, both like for like, didn’t disrupt Bayern’s rhythm at all, and if anything, the traffic became even more one-way after their arrival. The home side had myriad opportunities to emulate the 7-0 hammering they dished out to the same opponents back in April 2010, but were both denied by Zieler and their own wasteful finishing. Not that it ultimately mattered – in 13 league games, Bayern have netted 38 times, conceding a mere five. That latter record was never threatened during the second-half – Hannover rarely touched the ball, let alone escaped their own half. Slomka tried to address the situation in the 79th minute, replacing Diouf with Albanian summer signing Adrian Nikçi, but neither he nor his teammates could do anything to change the scoreline, as the game petered to a close.
Formations that finished the match
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Neuer; Lahm, Dante, Badstuber, Alaba; Martínez, Tymoshchuk; Shaqiri, Kroos, Ribéry; Gómez
Hannover (4-4-2, from right to left): Zieler; Cherundolo, Eggimann, Haggui, Rausch; Stindl, Pinto, Schulz, Huszti; Abdellaoue, Nikçi