Munich - After wrapping up their 23rd Bundesliga title in record time last Tuesday and all the pomp and ceremony that followed, perhaps it was about time FC Bayern München had a more sobering day at the office.
Robben demands more
The Bavarians' 19-game winning run was brought to an end by 1899 Hoffenheim on Matchday 28 and despite still boasting a 23-point lead at the top and going a 52nd Bundesliga game unbeaten, there was a pervading sense of disappointment come the full-time whistle.
Claudio Pizarro, one of seven changes to the side that clinched the title in Berlin, started for only the second time in the league this season and although he excelled by scoring his 170th and 171st top-flight goals, the Peruvian admitted there were “a lot of players on the pitch today that haven't played much in recent games, so it wasn't easy for us”. Arjen Robben was rather more frank in his analysis: “We may already be champions but we have to play a lot better than that."
Hoffenheim had gone into the game having never beaten Bayern in 11 attempts, but their performance in Munich reminded fans exactly why they are one of the league’s most exciting sides to watch. The visitors had the gall to open the scoring through Anthony Modeste’s strike and, despite falling 3-1 behind, showed their own fighting qualities to pull it back to 3-3, becoming the first side to score three against Pep Guardiola’s side all season.
Thiago injury blow
"It’s always frustrating [to let a lead slip], but you can’t forget how impressive we’ve been playing week after week,” said captain Philipp Lahm. “Now we’ve drawn a game and we allowed the opposition lots of goalscoring opportunities because we weren’t as well organised or disciplined as we normally are. If you do that, you’ll have problems against anyone and Hoffenheim took their chances well.”
Lahm’s assessment of the game seemed fair after Hoffenheim's courageous effort, but far more costly was the event that necessitated the Germany skipper’s introduction in the 25th minute - an injury to midfielder Thiago Alcantara. The former Barcelona man collided with Hoffenheim’s Kevin Volland and was immediately withdrawn, with an X-ray later revealing that he would be out for six to eight weeks with knee ligament damage that potentially ends his season.
The news, confirmed late on Saturday evening, left an undoubtedly sour taste in the mouth for die Münchner. "It's very bad news and we will really miss him," said Guardiola, while midfielder Thomas Müller added: "It's really disappointing and it comes at a catastrophic time for us, right before a lot of important matches".
Thiago’s absence may not be so important in the Bundesliga now, but the DFB Cup is still up for grabs and he will be a notable absentee in Europe, where the Reds face Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday before the return fixture eight days later. The only consolation for Bayern is the plethora of midfield talent waiting in the wings to replace him.
Both Tom Starke and Jens Grahl made it into this week's Top 5 Saves on the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: