FC Bayern: Record breaking in Europe, limping behind in the Bundesliga

Glorious FC Bayern Munich are still achieving new records to enhance the history of the 110-year club. The record-winning German champions set a new internal marker by defeating CFR Cluj 4-0 (2-0) away. The fourth victory in the fourth match meant a new starting record in the Champions League. Even before further encounters at AS Rome (November 23) and FC Basle (December 8), the Bavarians have qualified for the round of 16, to be played on February 15-16 and 22-23. They need just one point to secure top place in Group E and gain the advantage of playing the second leg of the next grouping at home at Allianz Arena.

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One player has stolen the limelight at Bayern Munich since mid-October: Mario Gomez, who was considered by many a write-off, has regained the label of goalscorer, the position he once held with VfB Stuttgart and which prompted his near 30 million Euros transfer to the Bavarians in the summer of 2009. The 25-year-old had scored 10 goals in eight matches by November 6. He started his scoring spree on October 12, when he was sent on in the 56th minute of the German national team’s European qualifier against Kazakhstan in Astana and 20 minutes later scored the goal for the 2-0 victory. This goal, plus a creditable performance, appears to have been the trigger for the centre forward, for in the following Bundesliga matches he achieved a hat-trick with the 3-0 victory over Hannover 96.

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Mario Gomez (left) scored 10 goals between October 12 and November 6. Schweinsteiger (centre) and Altintop congratulate him on his hat-trick against Hanover. (Photo: Rauchensteiner/Augenklick)

“Super Mario” Gomez: Ten goals in eight matches

In the Champions League Gomez contributed one goal in the 3-2 win against Cluj at home, then scored another hat-trick during the 4-0 away. In addition “Super Mario”, who proved his versatility (4 headers, 3 right shots, 3 left shots = 10 goals), scored during the 4-2 against Freiburg and the 3-3 in Moenchengladbach in the Bundesliga. He only failed to net the ball during the goalless draw away with Hamburger SV and the 2-1 win over Werder Bremen in the DFB Cup. “It is fantastic that we have such a striker”, was the praise from coach Louis van Gal. “Scoring goals is the most important fact for a striker“, said the Dutchman, adding with a mischievous smile: “That’s why strikers get paid most”.

Mario Gomez (left) achieved four goals in the two Champions League matches against Cluj. In the first leg he beat Cadu and goalkeeper Stanciou to make the score 3-1. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

However, Gomez also benefited from his colleague Miroslav Klose’s injury. Gomez replaced Klose, who suffered a torn muscle fibre in the international match in Astana. Klose was benched for some time, and Gomez took his chance to secure a regular place. As Ivico Olic also joined the large Bayern contingent of injured players (among others Robben, Ribéry, van Bommel), Gomez was suddenly the only true striker with the Bavarians. Had the Swabian with Spanish roots played less well FC Bayern’s problems could have escalated. For contrary to their superior appearances in the Champions League, the German title holders are limping behind in the race for the national championship. Though the team remained undefeated in six successive matches with the 3-3 draw in Moenchengladbach, the margin behind top team Borussia Dortmund increased to 12 points after the 11th Bundesliga round. When they conceded two goals within 15 minutes to be 3-2 down after a strong performance and a 2-1 lead at halftime, the players saw their coach from a different perspective.

Van Gaal turned into “van Bang” after the final whistle, with the 59-year-old throwing a tantrum in the locker room. “I was disappointed and upset”, van Gaal admitted and asked for understanding for his loud verbal attack. “This should not happen to a top team. Thus the gap between us and the top team in the Bundesliga is getting larger and larger”, van Gaal commented. “During the break I praised my players for their fantastic performance. It was the best performance this season. I also warned them that the opponents would come back aggressively”.

Together with Bayern President Uli Hoeness, van Gaal had attracted many headlines after the match in Cluj and prior to the encounter in Moenchengladbach. On the previous weekend Hoeness had reproached the coach in a TV discussion on Sky, suggesting he had ignored players from the second ranking for some time and avoided communication with them. These accusations, expressed objectively, triggered extensive media comments. Van Gaal did not hide his disappointment. In Cluj, the coach, the president and Bayern’s Executive Board chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, met and cleared the air. Many media reported that a truce was called. In future Hoeness, who has less influence as President than he formerly had as manager, would be better informed by van Gaal.

President Uli Hoeness (left) and coach Louis van Gaal (centre together with assistant Andries Jonker) agreed a truce after disagreements in Cluj. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

All want to pull in the same direction in order to fulfil the sporting aims. “We must win all home games in the Bundesliga by halftime, then attack aggressively in the second half”, said Bastian Schweinsteiger. The international player, who was repositioned from 6th to the 10th as playmaker by the coach due to the great injury problems, emphasised that the aim remains to celebrate their next title in May 2011. “But it will be anything but easy. Dortmund have already gained a great advantage”, said Schweinsteiger. In addition Bayern want to qualify for the DFB Cup quarter-finals from the encounter with VfB Stuttgart away on December 21-22.