Mönchengladbach - The fact Borussia Mönchengladbach came away from Sunday's goalless draw at home to Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München feeling a shade disappointed says it all.
'We didn't make any mistakes'
The Foals pushed their illustrious guests all the way at the Borussia-Park and would, in all likelihood, have picked up the win were it not for the impenetrable aura of a certain Manuel Neuer in the visitors' goal.
"We could easily have come away with all three points as we created some great chances in the second half," recalled Gladbach's World Cup-winning midfielder Christoph Kramer after the game."If Bayern hadn't had Neuer in goal, they'd have conceded a couple. The plan was to defend strongly and counter quickly. We did that well […] we didn't make any mistakes and fully deserve the point."
The draw ensures die Fohlenelf remain unbeaten in 15 matches in all competitions dating back to last season, but more encouragingly for the rest of Germany's top flight, provides a glimmer of hope that the title race may not be quite so clear-cut as first thought. After nine matches, Bayern's lead over Gladbach, VfL Wolfsburg and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim stands at a plausibly surmountable four points.
'We found the right balance'
"I'm very happy with how my team performed," said Borussia head coach Lucien Favre after the game. "Bayern caused us a few problems, but our defence stood firm. In the first half we lost the ball too easily, which allowed Bayern to control the game. At half time I told my team to have faith in themselves. We played well after the break and created some excellent chances. We were dangerous on the break and found the right balance between attack and defence."
Indeed, in pushing the domestic and European pacesetters to the very limit thanks to a measured gameplan comprising stout defending and incisive counter-attacking football, Gladbach appear to have unearthed a formula tailor-made for toppling the often unflappable record German champions. The Foals were never going to out-pass Pep Guardiola's masterful troupe, but they could, and did, outmuscle and outrun them.
Knitting the hosts together, the indefatigable Kramer won more tackles (15) and covered more ground (12.7 km) and than any other player on the park. When Bayern's attacks broke down, more often than not, he was the man orchestrating the counter-raids. Flanked by dynamic wingers Andre Hahn and Ibrahima Traore and with genuine goalscoring threats inside and outside the 18-yard box in Max Kruse and Raffael, Gladbach struck hard and fast at the champions' heart.
Ultimately, the matchwinner wasn't forthcoming, even though Gladbach racked up more attempts on goal (11) than any German side has managed against Bayern in 2014/15. It'll take something very special, with equal measures of discipline, patience and guts the requisite component parts, but we might just have seen the first real indication so far this season that the Bundesliga frontrunners are superable after all.
Check out Manuel Neuer's heroics against Gladbach on the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: