FC Bayern München were made to work hard to overcome a dogged FC Schalke 04 side on Saturday evening but their persistence eventually paid off as they secured a 3-1 victory.
Schalke started with a five-man backline at the VELTINS Arena in an effort to stifle Bayern’s fearsome attack, but their gameplan was spoiled early on through a stroke of misfortune. David Alaba picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty area and unleashed a shot that deflected off Leon Goretzka’s boot and looped into the net past a wrong-footed Ralf Fährmann. Unbowed, the hosts pressed on and pulled level shortly afterwards through Max Meyer’s 20-yard strike that slipped past Manuel Neuer.
Bayern camped out in Schalke’s half at the start of the second period, but with plenty of bodies behind the ball the hosts reduced their visitors to shots from distance. The Royal Blues did not only focus on defending, however, and looked to exploit the pace of Meyer and Leroy Sane on the break, albeit without success. Eventually, Guardiola’s charges got the goal their pressure deserved when Javi Martinez headed in from Arjen Robben’s cross. Thomas Müller added a third in stoppage time as the Bavarians’ extended their lead at the top of the table to eight points.
Man of the match
With Schalke sitting deep and closing the gaps around their penalty area, Bayern needed something special to find a breakthrough and Martinez duly provided it, arriving in the box unnoticed to head in the decisive second goal. On top of that, he completed an astonishing 96 per cent of his passes and won 50 per cent of his tackles.
Bayern will undoubtedly be pleased with the victory, but Guardiola will arguably be happier with the returns of a number of injured players. Medhi Benatia was in the starting XI for the first time since August, while fit-again Rafinha and Holger Badstuber were also in the squad, leaving Franck Ribery as the only remaining absentee.
- This was the first match Martinez and Benatia have ever started together in central defence.
- Meyer has scored each of his last five Bundesliga goals at home (and nine of his total 13).
- Schalke's goal was only the second Bayern have conceded away from home in the Bundesliga this season.
Schalke: Fährmann – Riether, Höwedes, Matip, Neustädter (Di Santo 75’), Aogo – Goretzka, Höjbjerg – Sane, Meyer (Reese 87’) – Huntelaar (Choupo Moting 70’)
Bayern: Neuer – Lahm, Martinez, Benatia (Boateng 70’), Alaba (Rafinha 83’) – Alonso – Robben (Kimmich 88’), Müller, Vidal, Costa - Lewandowski