Munich - It wasn’t the best performance FC Bayern Munich had delivered all season, but Saturday's 2-0 win at home to Greuther Fürth was enough for Jupp Heynckes' men to maintain their nine-point lead atop the Bundesliga table.
Key to the Bavarians keeping their twelfth clean sheet of the season was the performance of experienced defender Daniel van Buyten, who partnered Dante at centre-back. It was only the 34-year-old's second start and third league appearance overall this term, but with a packed post-winter break schedule, the Belgian international can expect plenty more playing time.
His opportunity has come as a result of Holger Badstuber's cruciate ligament injury, which will keep him sidelined until the summer, and Jerome Boateng being suspended for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League last 16 away at Arsenal.
For now though, the former Hamburger SV and Manchester City defender was just happy his side picked up the points. "Today, winning the game was enough, but it won’t be like that every time," he said. The anticipated thrashing of Bundesliga newcomers Fürth never looked likely, with the hosts labouring at times to get the better of the league's bottom side.
Two goals from Croatian international Mario Mandzukic ultimately secured the win, although Bayern were uncharacteristically profligate in front of goal. "We need to be better in terms of taking our chances next time," said van Buyten, who might have added to his impressive tally of 26 goals in 196 league appearances had his second-half header not drifted wide of the target.
However, for the squad’s longest-serving player after Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, the priority remains to end two trophyless seasons of hurt. "It would be extremely disappointing to have given everything all season long and then have nothing to show for it at the end. We don’t want to experience that again," he added, referring to the 2011/12 campaign in which Bayern finished runners-up in all three competitions and lost the UEFA Champions League final on home soil to Chelsea FC.
Die Münchner have it well within their grasp to ensure that does not happen this time round, with the side confident of rediscovering the air of invincibility that accompanied them for the majority of the first half of the season. News that Pep Guardiola has agreed to take over as head coach has further reinforced Bayern's standing as Bundesliga big-hitters.
"I’m proud that he’s coming - that the best coach is coming to the best club," van Buyten said of next summer's changing of the guard. Whether the imposing defender will be around to benefit from Guardiola’s wisdom first hand remains to be seen, with his contract set to expire at the end of the current campaign. Yet van Buyten is not looking that far ahead just yet: "At the moment we're just focusing on winning every game."
Christoph Gailer reporting from Munich