What crisis? Bayern Munich cruise on Lewandowski brace
Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich shrugged off talk of unrest in the camp with a comfortable 2-0 win over Hoffenheim to restore the eight-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga. Robert Lewandowski scored two goals to secure the points and take Bayern over the 50-goal mark for the campaign so far.
Former club president Uli Hoeness said he wanted Bayern to be dominant on the front and back pages of newspapers, but perhaps even he will have been uncomfortable with the past seven days. An injury to Jerome Boateng, one which will keep him out for three months, sparked another furious debate on Guardiola’s training methods and relationship with the medical staff.
The club then announced a multi-million-euro sponsorship agreement with Doha Airport, a deal which has again led to scrutiny over the club’s relationship with the oil-rich Gulf state and its questionable human rights record. If that wasn’t enough for a week, on Thursday German media reports were informed by a ‘mole’ in the squad that the atmosphere in the camp was "not good."
So a mundane Sunday meeting with Hoffenheim, the side second from bottom in the league, took on increased importance for Bayern and Guardiola. A late injury to Javi Martinez meant the German champions had one recognized centre-back in Holger Badstuber, the defender having spent most of his young career on the treatment table. Mehdi Benatia won’t be back in contention until the middle of February.
Guardiola called two changes to his side from the 2-1 win over Hamburg last week, with Joshua Kimmich starting in midfield and Arjen Robben returning. Robben’s ferocious energy and desire to impact the match from the start was certainly the pace-setter that Bayern needed. Hoffenheim left-back Jin-Su Kim had to be on red alert from the first whistle to monitor the Dutchman’s surging runs forward. Robben, on six minutes, curled a brilliant left-foot effort on to the roof of the net from around 25 yards out. An almost identical effort two minutes later was narrowly off target.
Given Robben has experienced two lengthy spells out of the team this season, the signs were promising for Guardiola. On 14 minutes, he looked to turn provider, delicately lobbing a cross into a dangerous area around the six-yard box, but nobody was able to get on the end of it.
On the other side, Douglas Costa was generating some steam and he set up Thomas MÃ¼ller whose shot was kept out by Oliver Baumann. Robben, terrorising Kim on the Bayern right-flank, wasn’t able to carve out the opener on 23 minutes.
But Bayern’s focus on explosive wing-play reaped its rewards, 10 minutes later. Costa beat Pavel Kaderabek on the left, drilling his cross low-and-hard into the mix where Lewandowski cushioned home into an empty net. The Polish striker, who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid this week, counted his 18th league strike of the campaign – more than he scored in the entirety of last season.
The first glimpse of instability in Bayern’s defense was visible after 42 minutes. Andre Kramaric, on loan until the end of the season from Leicester City, controlled a neat pass from Jiloan Hamad, but his shot barely tested Manuel Neuer. Kramaric could have marked a memorable introduction into German football on 56 minutes, but the striker passed up a huge chance for the visitors to level. Jonathan Schmid supplied the ball, Kramaric adjusted his body, but smashed the ball wide from close range.
What now seems to be customary when teams miss big chances against Bayern, the home side showed its ruthlessness in front of goal to make the points safe on 64 minutes. Philipp Lahm made a rare foray into attack and sliced open the Hoffenheim defense, allowing Lewandowski to pounce with a neat clip over Baumann from six yards and score his 19th of the campaign. Arturo Vidal was called upon after the goal and he struck the post minutes later as Bayern enjoyed their dominance despite the rainy conditions in Munich.
Robben deserved a goal for his performance, but it wasn’t to be as his 86th minute effort curled wide of the target. Bayern’s win to round off match day 19 in the Bundesliga and continue their march to a fourth successive league championship looks to have put all the furore of the past seven days into context. Crisis, what crisis?