Munich - Since announcing his arrival among the game's elite at the 2004 UEFA European Championships with the Netherlands, the sight of dribbling at full speed and leaving defenders in his wake has enthralled fans the world over.
Against 1. FC Nürnberg on Matchday 3, the 29-year-old was at it again, scoring the second in his trademark, weaving fashion as the Reds maintained their winning start to the season with a hard-fought 2-0 victory. Speaking to bundesliga.com after the game, Robben's pleasure at an “enjoyable day" was evident, with the midfielder revelling in "being fit and healthy, and being on the pitch.”
The last time these two sides had met, it had been an extremely one-sided Bavarian derby, with Bayern opening up a 3-0 lead inside 24 minutes, before strolling on to win 4-0 back in April. Nürnberg were determined to frustrate their hosts this time around, however, and a palpable sense of frustration in the Allianz Arena preceded the opening goal, scored in the second half by Franck Ribery. It was followed by a huge exhalation of relief from the home fans, and a wonder goal from Robben.
The Dutchman’s team-mate Bastian Schweinsteiger, who again played as a deep-lying holding player almost level with his central defenders, admitted that the Reds had been made to work for the win. “We created a lot of chances, but we had to be patient,” said the 29-year-old Germany international. “Perhaps the only negative was our chance conversion rate.”
Robben happy with busy schedule
A more handsome margin of victory wouldn’t have flattered Bayern, but Robben was happy to secure another victory that keeps the defending champions on maximum points: “Everything’s going to plan. There are still a couple of things we can improve but that’s normal. I also think that in our three league games so far you’ve seen how we’ve improved things that we had spoken about together.”
The fixtures continue to come thick and fast for Pep Guardiola’s men. On Tuesday they face SC Freiburg away in the league, before travelling to Prague to contest the UEFA Super Cup with Chelsea FC. Bayern are the only Bundesliga club with an Englische Woche, but Robben, who played for Chelsea between 2004 and 2007, is unconcerned: “We’re used to it at Bayern. Last season it was the same, we had a lot of midweek matches. It’s good to get into that type of rhythm again.”
Chelsea on the back-burner
The Chelsea clash represents the next opportunity for Guardiola to lift some silverware as the Reds’ head coach, in a competition he won twice with FC Barcelona in 2009 and 2011. First up, though, it’s Freiburg away, an “uncomfortable opponent” according to Schweinsteiger and a game that demands their entire focus at present.
“We have to put Chelsea out of our minds," said the Bayern No31. "We’re professional enough to know we have to focus on the game in hand, which is against Freiburg. They’re a strong team at home and they’ve improved a lot in the last few years. It could well be another game where we have to show the type of patience we did today.” In all likelihood, it won't be the last either.
Bernie Reeves at the Allianz Arena