President Uli Hoeness had set the guidelines. “I expect an explosion. I expect that the straight jacket that restrained the players for weeks will be removed”, said the Chairman of the Board of FC Bayern Munich. That was after the dismissal of Louis van Gaal on April 10 as head coach of the German record-winning champions. The following week the team finally showed their “real face” as Bastian Schweinsteiger put it. The Bavarians performed brilliantly for a 5-1 (4-0) win over second-placed Bayer Leverkusen and seemed to have quickly “removed the straight jacket” as demanded by Hoeness. Something new happened on Sunday, April 17, from 15:30 hrs at Allianz Arena. The majority of the 69,000 spectators showed extreme support for the Bayern side. One week after van Gaal’s sacking, and the promotion of the Dutchman’s assistant Andries Jonker to head coach until the end of the season, the team played fantastic football which has been too rarely seen this season.
After this gala performance Bayern moved into third place, displacing Hannover 96 (0-0 at Hamburger SV). Now the team wants to retain this slot during the last four Bundesliga rounds as it will place them in the qualifying matches for the Champions League. Second place is hardly to be achieved in their encounters in Frankfurt, at home against Schalke, at St. Pauli, and against Stuttgart. Leverkusen who remained in second place, despite the defeat, are six points ahead. With their eleventh win in their 15th home match the Bavarians showed what they are capable of, but they can catch Bayer Leverkusen only if the team from the Rhineland lose twice.
Munich achieved an early lead with an own goal from Simon Rolfes, prompted by pressure from Schweinsteiger. They continued with convincing defensive and attacking performances, and appeared more prudent and confident. The half-time score was 4-0. “That’s exactly what we always imagine”, captain Philipp Lahm disclosed. The defence didn’t take risks as advised under attacking preacher van Gaal. “A great compliment to the coach”, said Lahm, praising Jonker who had taken well to the job of head coach by setting clear goals during the week. “He found the right approach and set the right impulses in training”, added manager Christian Nerlinger about the 48-year-old Dutchman. “We aim to win the upcoming four matches”, Jonker said. At the end of the season he will have to leave the helm. Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes will then begin his third engagement with Bayern Munich. The 65-year-old had been full of optimism before the kick-off that Leverkusen would finally celebrate their first win in Munich since 1989. But then his team, including internationals Adler, Ballack, Vidal, Rolfes, Kiessling and other top players succumbed and lost for the first time in eight matches.
Gomez increases his goal tally to 22 with his first hat-trick
Keeper Joerg Butt was again in the Munich goal since a glaring mistake of Thomas Kraft during the 1-1 draw in Nuremberg in the previous week, which ultimately cost van Gaal his job. The change of goalkeeper during the winter break from Butt to inexperienced Kraft had been totally unnecessary, bringing a reprimand from Hoeness for the often stubborn von Gaal. That’s when the trouble began. Daniel van Buyten was also given a new chance by Jonker, while Miroslav Klose returned to the starting line-up and played as second striker behind Mario Gomez, who was the outstanding player of the match. Under the eyes of German national coach Joachim Loew he scored three goals with three shots on goal within 18 minutes. It was the first time Gomez had scored a first half hat-trick in the Bundesliga.
The striker’s record this season is sensational. The former Stuttgart player has scored 32 goals in 33 competitive matches when in Bayern’s starting line-up. He achieved an additional goal when sent on in the first round of the DFB Cup against Germania Windeck (4-0) in Cologne. Gomez guarantees FC Bayern almost one goal per match if playing from kick-off. He became the Bundesliga’s top scorer by two goals, replacing Freiburg’s Papiss Demba Cissé. “I have made the biggest progress in my career with Bayern”, Gomez disclosed proudly, hinting that he had finally overcome the difficulty to adapt during his first season in Munich. “I am convinced that I will continue to score in the upcoming matches”, he said. But his personal success of achieving the trophy for the best Bundesliga scorer wouldn’t be important. “It’s important that we play in the Champions League next year. We all understand that we simply must finish in third place”, Gomez explained.
“Noble” shirt for a new season with titles
On the Tuesday after this memorable victory there was a new approach to the new season. “To resume old successes in a new outfit”, read FC Bayern’s Internet site. “After a 2010-11 season without silverware, FC Bayern will resume the attack in a new, red and gold home shirt next season and hopefully once again approach golden times”. The players liked their new outfit. “The shirt is very, very noble and suits FC Bayern perfectly”, said Lahm about the strip which can be purchased as of May 13. Schalke goalkeeper Manuel Neuer announced on Wednesday (April 20) that he will not extend his contract in Gelsenkirchen. It may be assumed that the German international, who led the Royal Blues into the Champions League semi-final with victories over title holders Inter Milan, will play with Bayern in the coming season.