Munich - FC Bayern Munich extended their lead at the top of the Bundesliga table to 15 points courtesy of a crushing 4-0 win over FC Schalke 04 in the Allianz Arena.
Difference in quality
David Alaba scored twice for the home side with an early penalty and a close-range strike, while Bastian Schweinsteiger's classy free-kick and a tap-in from Mario Gomez completed the scoring. In truth though, the Bundesliga's record titleholders rarely had to break out of second gear against a Schalke side bereft of confidence and struggling for form.
A glance at the team news before the game told its own story about just what type of challenge awaited Jens Keller's men. Missing Klaas-Jan Huntelaar through injury, Teemu Pukki led the line for the Royal Blues, with Tranquillo Barnetta coming in to replace Jefferson Farfan. By contrast, Jupp Heynckes had the luxury of replacing Mario Mandzukic and Thomas Müller - two players, who between them have netted 25 goals - with Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben.
That supremacy was then predictably borne out on the pitch from the first whistle. Schalke, playing with a 4-5-1 formation, were set up to frustrate their opponents, and looked solid in the opening exchanges . Disappointingly for the visitors, however, they gifted Bayern the opening goal when Alaba converted from the spot after Marco Höger needlessly felled Franck Ribery, and from then on it was an uphill struggle.
Men against Boys
Robben might have done better than to glance a header off target from Schweinsteiger's cross, before Gomez then nodded wide from a similar position under pressure from Christoph Metzelder. A second goal didn't take long in arriving, though, and again Schalke had themselves to blame for its concession. Sead Kolasinac clumsily fouled Robben on the edge of the box allowing Schweinsteiger to further punish the visitors by curling in a superb free-kick.
Two moments either side of the restart summed up the visitors afternoon. Michel Bastos fired a free-kick hopelessly off target, before Alaba tapped in a second from Gomez's pass to kill off the Schalke challenge. The visiting players cut a dejected set of figures and they soon fell further behind. Robben raced through a static defence only to send a chip onto the roof of the net, but he made up for his mistake on the hour mark when he set up Gomez for a simple fourth.
There remained some signs of life among the Royal Blues and they continued to compete in the midfield areas, with USA international Jermaine Jones typically industrious. The introductions of Farfan and Brazilian duo Edu and Raffael made no difference to the pattern of the match, though. On the contrary, home coach Heynckes allowed himself the opportunity to withdraw Philipp Lahm, Ribery and Schweinsteiger with the points well and truly in the bag.
Seldom will the Bavarians have enjoyed an easier day's work in the Bundesliga and their march towards a first league title since 2010 gathers yet more momentum. Schalke, meanwhile, have the unenviable tasks of travelling to Mainz before a crucial UEFA Champions League tie against Galatasaray SK as they attempt to extricate themselves from their current slump.
Line-ups and statistics