Munich - FC Bayern München’s underwhelming start to the Rückrunde continued on Tuesday as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to FC Schalke 04 in a game they finished with ten men.
Bayern down to ten
Jerome Boateng’s sending off in the first half threw the Bundesliga leaders out of kilter for long periods of the game, but they looked to have snatched an unlikely victory when Arjen Robben gave them the lead after the break. However, Benedikt Höwedes equalised for the visitors shortly afterwards in an entertaining match at the Allianz Arena.
If Bayern had been left rattled at being so ruthlessly exploited on the counter-attack by VfL Wolfsburg on Friday, they showed no signs of it here; in fact they seemed even more committed to squeezing the life out of their opponents by taking an early stranglehold on possession. Schalke almost invited their hosts to attack by playing a cautious five-man back line, but that left them outnumbered in midfield on the rare occasions they won the ball back and tried to get forward.
As such it was Bayern who had the first clear chances of the game, with Bastian Schweinsteiger heading just wide from a corner before Thomas Müller narrowly failed to collect Mario Götze’s smart knock-down. However, the complexion of the game changed in the 17th minute when Jerome Boateng was sent off for swiping Sidney Sam’s legs in the box, giving the visitors the perfect chance to score. Yet Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, perhaps distracted by the deafening din made by the 75,000 fans in the recently expanded Allianz Arena, struck a weak penalty which Manuel Neuer saved easily.
However, having an extra man on the field encouraged Schalke to come out of their shell and they subsequently pushed forward with greater confidence and purpose. Bayern struggled to recover their poise and although Pep Guardiola replaced Götze with Dante to provide greater balance, they no longer had the same cutting edge. Schalke tried to make the most of the extra space by seeking out Sam’s speed up front, but Neuer was not seriously tested again before the break.
Schalke brought on keeper Timon Wellenreuther to make his professional debut in the second half after Fabian Giefer had sustained an injury, and the newcomer got a swift taste of the action when he punched away a goal-bound effort from Robben. That shot was the only time either custodian was called into action for a long spell as the game developed into a tactical battle fought largely in midfield.
Midway through the second period Bayern thought they had taken the lead when the ball was somehow bundled into the net from close range, but it was adjudged to have gone out of play in the build-up. The hosts did manage to go in front from the resulting corner, though, Robben darting across the face of goal to head in.
Unbowed, the guests levelled the score minutes later in almost identical fashion when Höwedes rose to meet a corner from the left and direct a header past Neuer. Both teams pushed for a winner in the closing stages as gaps began to appear, but there was to be no fairytale ending for Schalke, who were nonetheless satisfied to return to Gelsenkirchen with a point.
Line-ups and statistics
Jonathan Stockitt reporting from the Allianz Arena
Watch Pep Guardiola on his rollercoaster ride of emotions in this video, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel .