A dangerous opponent turned out to be anything but that. Whether they were too nervous, chose a too defensive-minded strategy or simply had an off-day, Braunschweig never had a real chance against a good Bayern squad that showed some improvement. Bastian Schweinsteiger got a special birthday present, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller make the fear of a Robben long-term injury disappear a bit.
First, the lineups: There’s not much to say about Braunschweig, their coach Torsten Lieberknecht decided for the same “old” starting XI they’ve been using all season long so far. The only slight surprise was that Dennis Kruppke wasn’t playing that much ahead of Damir Vrancic, their midfield often looked like a flat four.
Jupp Heynckes couldn’t really surprise me either. While many German media predicted Jerome Boateng not to start, I was almost dead certain that he would (this sounds more like a vaunt than it’s meant to be). The only slight surprise was that he opted for Gustavo instead of Tymoshchuk, a hint that the Brazilian might have a small advantage in the battle for the spot next to Schweinsteiger (although the exact opposite was said after the Audi Cup match against Milan).
So, can we already see changes? Is this a different team than van Gaal’s? Yes and not yet. While possession was dominated, it wasn’t because the offense relied on those hypnotizing long-term attacks but rather due to having scored an early goal and thus trying not to give the opponent the ball to prevent a comeback. The attacks themselves were more straight-forward, more vertically oriented. Still, it’ll take some more time to “get rid” of the LvG fingerprint (if Heynckes wants that).
There’s not that much to tell about the events of the match. Braunschweig mainly relied on long balls that were supposed to lead to Dominick Kumbela going one on one but most of the time weren’t accurate enough (or stopped by Badstuber or the very strong Boateng). As already said, Bayern dominated possession and dictated the pace of the match. About 10 minutes were gone when Thomas Müller was fouled inside the box. Mario Gomez converted the deserved penalty. Almost exactly 30 minutes later, Müller was again fouled. The following penalty kick was converted as well, not by Gomez but Schweinsteiger. Why? It’s as simple as that: It was Schweinsteiger’s birthday. When Gomez congratulated him earlier that day, he jokingly said he at least expected some kind of present from a good friend. So when the ref pointed to the spot for the second time, Mario Gomez grabbed the ball, gave it to the birthday boy and said: “Here’s my present.” Now it was up to Schweinsteiger to unwrap the present, he did, Bayern was up 2-0.
The second half was a rather relaxing one, Braunschweig apparently was too afraid to open the gates and attack, probably fearing more FCB goals. Bayern knew that there wasn’t any need to continue exerting pressure, that it’s much smarter to stay calm. Leverkusen’s match in Dresden was a perfect reminder. Late in the game, Thomas Müller finally scored a typical Müller goal after “assisting” the first two. That was it, a huge sigh of relief, no upset this time.
A few words about the signings: Manuel Neuer already planned what to eat for dinner this week, he had nothing to do. Rafinha showed why he’s set to be a bargain, solid defensively and often helping offensively. David Alaba isn’t a new signing per se but you could see that the time in Hoffenheim helped him a lot. I won’t blame a man of his age for maybe being a bit nervous because that, in my opinion, was the only reason why he wasn’t as great as the other midfielders were. Last but not least, Jerome Boateng. A really good performance, absolutely sublime. I could write more but don’t wanna praise him that much after one match.
All in all, a solid match that brought some confidence back. Confidence that the defense isn’t as bad as we imagined. Confidence that the massive dependence on Ribery and Robben could be a thing of the past. Confidence that Don Jupp is the right man to make opponents feel and fear the Mia San Mia again. Let’s hope that we still think that after the Gladbach match on Sunday (!), that it was not just a fluke against a weak team.
Goals: 0-1 Gomez (9′), 0-2 Schweinsteiger (39′), 0-3 Müller (83′)
Eintracht Braunschweig: Marc Pfitzner (Vrancic, 61′), Mathias Fetsch (Zimmermann, 70′), Benjamin Kessel (Boland, 73′)
FC Bayern: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Alaba, 81′), Danijel Pranjic (Kroos, 88′), Daniel van Buyten (Boateng, 90′)
Other DFB-Pokal matches:
Next match: Sunday v Gladbach (Bundesliga), 5.30 pm local time