Mainz - It was a familiar feeling for many fans congregating outside the Coface Arena with a mug of mulled wine in their hands on Friday night, after Arjen Robben's late goal had secured a 2-1 win for runaway league leaders FC Bayern München over 1. FSV Mainz 05.
'Great quality, amazing mentality'
That mulled wine would have tasted much nicer for the home fans had Robben not ruined the festivities in the carnival club's final home game of 2014 and added a bitter aftertaste to the Mainz supporters' warming beverage.
The Dutchman's 90th-minute strike evoked memories of the many times Bayern - or any table-topper for that matter - came away with maximum points after coming under considerable pressure from their opponents. That was certainly the case on Friday night as Mainz asked plenty of questions of the record titleholders, but ultimately came away with nothing despite a gutsy display.
It was not the usual one-team show one has come to expect this season from Pep Guardiola's all-conquering side; no 4-0 victory with a monopoly of possession and enough chances to see many a side through an entire season. Yet to say the win was lucky would be doing Guardiola's charges a disservice. "We've got great, great quality and an amazing mentality," said the Catalan tactician afterwards.
Making the rough look smooth
It's hard to disagree with the FC Bayern coach's assessment. His side cruised into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League and have not lost any of their 17 games in the Bundesliga, drawing only three and conceding just four goals. It is a record which has exceeded even Guardiola's expectations in the first five months after Germany's FIFA World Cup triumph.
He predicted a rough ride as his contingent of world champions returned to action without as much as a fortnight's break following their exploits in Brazil, and despite winning everything that could be won in the last 18 months, the Bavarians' appetite for success appears undiminished as they continue to rise to every challenge placed before them.
'We can do even more'
On Friday night, Guardiola was forced to leave out enough players to form a title-winning team, yet he was still able to field a side of unrivalled quality, a star-studded selection including Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. However, the 43-year-old did admit that fatigue is beginning to catch up with his players. "We can still do with a break now," he said. "Everybody's a bit tired."
If Bayern can deliver what they have running on half-empty batteries since August, who knows how they will perform once the lithium levels have been topped up over the winter? "It's been a good first half to the season, but we can do even more," added the former FC Barcelona coach, delivering a message for his side's rivals to go with their bittersweet mulled wine.