Munich - FC Bayern München signed off from the Allianz Arena in style for 2014, with the Bundesliga leaders maintaining their perfect home record in the league this season with a 2-0 victory over SC Freiburg.
Arjen Robben continued his outstanding form to break the deadlock just before the interval, while Thomas Müller’s header shortly after the restart crushed any hopes the visitors had of a comeback.
The moment the line-ups were revealed an hour or so before kick-off it became apparent what sort of game it would turn out to be. Pep Guardiola selected an extremely aggressive 4-1-4-1 formation, with Robben, Müller, Franck Ribery, Mario Götze, and Robert Lewandowski all included from the off. That was in stark contrast to the visitors’ team selection, with boss Christian Streich fielding a cautious five-man backline, leaving Admir Mehmedi as the only attacking player.
As such, the hosts immediately laid siege to the Freiburg area, patiently pinging the ball around the edge of the 18-yard box looking for gaps to open up. Lewandowski and Müller had a couple of half-chances from headers but on the whole Bayern struggled to break through the compact Freiburg defence early on. In fact, it was the guests who had the clearer sights of goal on the break, with Christian Günter’s pace causing trouble on occasion.
As half-time approached Freiburg goalkeeper Roman Bürki was called into action with greater frequency and the custodian made superb saves from Götze and Alonso to keep the south-western club in the game. However, there was nothing he could do about Bayern’s opening goal, as Alonso’s lofted pass over the defence found Ribery, whose cushioned header from the left was met at the near post by Robben with a diving header to score his 100th competitive goal for the club and give the hosts a deserved lead at the break.
Bayern thundered into the second half, seemingly affronted at not having an even greater advantage to reflect their dominance and they barely gave Freiburg room to breathe in a frenetic 15-minute period. Their pressure bore fruit almost instantly, as Juan Bernat’s cross from the left was tipped on to the crossbar by Bürki, only for Müller to head the rebound over the line.
It remained one-way traffic throughout the match, as Bayern tirelessly pushed for another goal, pinning Freiburg into a cramped space around the edge of their area. Bernat twice went close to opening his account for the club, but first his right-footed shot was tipped over the bar by Bürki, before he crashed another effort off the post moments later. Manuel Neuer was largely a spectator in the Bayern goal and was only made to work shortly before the end when Mehmedi fizzed a speculative 20-yard drive just wide.
The game resembled an attack-versus-defence training exercise for Guardiola's charges, who were nevertheless not content to merely run down the clock, although they failed to break down their guests for a third time. Indeed, the only sour note to a comfortable evening’s work, which was rounded off with a spectacular laser display after the final whistle, were injuries to Medhi Benatia, Robert Lewandowski and Xabi Alonso, who all had to be taken off. Yet with the winter break a matter of days away, they will have plenty of time to recover ahead of the second half of the season.
Line-ups and statistics
Jonathan Stockitt reporting from the Allianz Arena