In the sadly immortal words of Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump: “Henry Gibson always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get,” and so it was on saturday, as the travelling knight errants of Hannover 96 journeyed south to Munich to play a formidable Bayern side on an impeccable run of form. Home advantage naturally favoured the Bavarians, though we were set back a few notches by Jupp Heynckes’ (completely justified) decision to rest several important players in preparation for Wednesday’s champions league tie against Massilia. Despite any constrain in optimism we may have had before the game, I think that all in all, that went quite well.
This match, while a far cry from the champagne displays against Basel, Hoffenheim, and Hertha, was at the very least a decent Australian Sauvignon blanc. Play would unfold at a steady pace, the first real incident coming in the seventh minute as Danijel Pranjic performed a nightmarish tackle on Lars Stindl’s ego, sending Slomka’s prize peacock to ground faster than you can say “du willst doch mit mir schlafen, oder?” Stindl’s resulting freekick was easily plucked away from danger by Manuel Neuer. Four minutes later, Franck Ribery, not wishing to be outdone by the preening ponce, hoofed his own freekick straight into the hands of Ron-Robert “first man since 1954 to concede three goals on his debut for Germany” Zieler. Ten minutes later the Frenchman would nearly trouble the scoresheet again in an episode of grim Steinbeckian foreshadowing, driving a magnificent low shot to the wide left of Ron-Robert “Remember what happened in 1954?” Zieler’s net.
At this point, the dormant Hannover would suddenly come alive, assailing Manuel Neuer’s goal with shot after shot, despite the amorous advances of Holger Badstuber. Neuer would take this moment to delight and amaze us all with one of his now customary goalkeeping lapses, falling asleep on the ball and passing it out of his own box, leaving the quietly attentive Holger to bail us out in a silently effective fashion. This valiant defence of errors would spur us on to another run of setting up decent scoring chances and passing them to Hannover defenders.
The tide would turn in the 38th minute. Franck Ribery pirouetted through no less than three white shirted defenders before slotting a pass as delicate and attractive as Sarah Brandner’s nose through to Arjen Robben, who turned it over to the unmarked Toni Kroos on the inside edge of the box. Ron-Robert “Why isn’t he starting for the national team?” Zieler, seeing that all was lost, rushed at Kroos like Don Quixote at those godless giants on the plains of La Mancha, who floated it past Hannover’s unprotected goal line like a paper airplane into an indignant neighbour’s apple tree. We would come close thrice more in the remaining seven minutes, both Robben and Olic missing romanesque lobs, followed by the latter blowing our most obvious scoring chance of the game in spectacular fashion, tripping over himself and nudging the ball wide.
The second half would open not unlike the first, both sides pouring the each other a light glass of the bubbly red and failing to make over six passes without losing the ball. Both sides had some excellent chances, notably second half substitute Mario Gomez’s magnificent lofted ball from an acute angle, denied by the post, and Konstantin Rausch’s mistimed attempt from a superb Mame Diouf through ball. It would be Mario Gomez, however, who would see his name on the scoresheet, as the Schwabian striker sliced through the Hannover defence like a knife through a vat of olive oil and slotted a simple chance past the flailing arms of Ron-Robert “better than Wiese” Zieler.
At this point the match appeared done and dusted. This was greatly misleading. Seven minutes after Gomez’s eventual winner, Didier Ya Konan, unmarked in the centre of the area, belted a quite remarkable overhead kick past the stunned Manuel Neuer to claw back a goal for the white shirts. Two minutes later, Mame Diouf would follow this up by ballooning a header over the bar from four yards out in an equally spectacular manner. From this point, the game would devolve into Jerome Boateng hammering crosses against his own post, late substitution Thomas Mueller cheekily gadding the 96ers defence, Gomez and Ribery playing hard to get (and smiling from time to time) in the corner, Lars Stindl repeatedly groaning as his life quietly slipped away from him in the muddy fields of Bavaria, and petty free kicks being liberally given on either side, before at last referee Guido Winkmann’s whistle heralded the end of the match. While this may not have been Hertha, and this may not have been Hoffenheim, in the end, these are the games that will decide which way the title falls. Such a shame Dortmund keep winning them.
A few points:
- Arjen Robben remains a disgrace to his profession and a weak link in Heynckes’ strategy 90% of the time. However, his timely flashes of brilliance, such as his assist for Kroos’ goal, should and will continue his merited inclusion in the starting lineup
- Lars Stindl is a diving weasel and a disgrace to his profession. However, he is not Dutch, so everything’s alright there.
- In the 20th minute, Holger Badstuber revealed his true intentions by jumping onto the outstretched back of Manuel Neuer. The great while whale, however, was otherwise occupied with measuring the shadow of Oliver Kahn, who has present at the match.
- According to the wondrously monikered Fritz von Thurn und Taxis, Uli Hoeneß’s brother Dieter attended the match.
- In both this season’s Hannover – Bayern fixtures, the team wearing white shirts lost 2-1.
- In addition to George I of England, Martin Kind, and those gold away shorts, Hannover has given us Lena Meyer-Landrut. Bayern’s victory is, as usual, yet another triumph for righteousness and good.
- Nils Petersen did not play. Ivica Olic did. Oh dear.
- Bastian Schweinsteiger, Daniel Van Buyten, and Oliver Kahn attended today’s match.
- Mirko Slomka might be the most stylish coach in the Bundesliga.
- Dortmund play Koeln tomorrow. They surely can’t bottle that one, can they?
- While Bayern march onwards, spare a thought for poor little HSV, who as of today have entered a relegation playoff spot. Alternatively, you could just laugh at them. That’s much more fun.
- Speaking of HSV, more astute observers may note that Thorsten Fink’s “Bayern gene” has ultimately lifted the Dinosaurs two places from where they were when Michael Oenning was sacked. This gives the Bayern gene a ratio of two places, which corresponds to previous estimates.
- 1-0 Kroos (36′)
- 2-0 Gomez (68′)
- 2-1 Ya Konan (74′)
- FC Bayern:
- Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Pranjic, 57′)
- Mario Gomez (Olic, 61′)
- Thomas Müller (Kroos, 78′)
- Hannover 96:
- Jan Schlaudraff (Pinto, 61′)
- Didier Ya Konan (Abdellaoue, 66′)
Team stats (Bayern-Hannover):
- Ball possession: 52% – 48%
- Shots taken: 13 – 6
- Passes completed (in %): 370 – 319 (85% – 81%)
- Corner kicks: 6 – 1
- Tackles won: 45% – 55%
- Fouls committed: 15 – 15
- Distance covered: 114,3 – 108,9
Leading player stats (Bayern-Hannover):
- Touches: Philipp Lahm (76) – Steven Cherundolo (81)
- Shots taken: Arjen Robben (4) – Mame Diouf (2)
- Passes completed: Philipp Lahm (47) – Eggimann/Pogatetz (39 each)
- Crosses attempted: Philipp Lahm (3) – 4 players (2 each)
- Tackles won: Franck Ribery (12) – Emanuel Pogatetz (15)
- Tackles won in %: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (75%) – Christian Pander (79%)
- Distance covered: Luiz Gustavo (11,5) – Manuel Schmiedebach (12, 2)
- Fastest sprint in km/h: Ivica Olic (32,0) – Konstantin Rausch (31,7)
Next match: Wednesday at Marseille (Champions League), 8.45 pm