The recent decision to implement added safety measures to Bundesliga stadia has been met with nervous apprehension. No one doubts that fireworks and violence need to be eradicated from stadia but the fear of football's bureaucracy manipulating its proverbial foot in the door is a real one. The Bundesliga is great for a number of reasons and one of those is the well-documented live match day experience.
Evidence of which was plain for all to see on Friday night in the Bundesliga when Bayern München hosted the improving Borussia Mönchengladbach in Bayern's last home Bundesliga game of 2012.
The opening quarter of an hour had all the remnants of a typical Bayern home game. Ribery was dancing down the left wing and the opposition looked rightly terrified. Pivotally though, Bayern didn't score. Gladbach sensed this and having held their hosts at bay, they started to pass the ball quite smartly. Dante looked imperious in the centre of defence but his partner, Jerome Boateng (replacing the injured Holger Badstuber) looked anything but. He was found wanting as well when a cross from Cigerci on the left struck his outstretched elbow, leaving Tobias Welz with little option but to give the penalty, which Thorben Marx converted. This certainly was odd, an away side not only scoring but taking the lead as well? Surely not.
ter Stegen stands firm
The majority of the crowd felt just as aggrieved as their side looked, after all Gladbach are a smart side. Ribery smashed an effort goalwards producing a fine save from ter Stegen in the process as Bayern threw everything to get level. With frustration comes rash decision making though, and although typical of Neuer, his decision to rush out of goal to beat Patrick Herrmann to the ball was a poor one. Herrmann nipped the ball round him but Gladbach's number seven couldn't repeat the feat of his Venezuelan teammate, as Dante stopped the ball before it reached the goal. Schweinsteiger then drove his side forward, as is so often the case, but was denied the equaliser when Juan Arango proved his defensive worth, heading the ball off the line from his free kick.
Before the break, there was even more disappointment for the home side when Martinez limped off, having picked up an injury to his left eye. Andre ter Stegen is returning to form after an early season blip and he made a fantastic save to deny Schweinsteiger only three minutes after the restart. Gladbach were playing a dangerous counter-attacking game as Bayern began to argue amongst themselves in disbelief. Gladbach then undid their own game plan when goalscorer Thorben Marx inexplicably played a horrible pass across the box ahead of Tony Jantschke and the lightning-quick Shaqiri nipped in to curl past ter Stegen. The goal was registered as being hit at 57mph. More hammer than curl then.
Searching for a winner
Bayern surged forward and rained shots down on ter Stegen's goal. After a flurry of set-piece chances and desperate penalty appeals, Ribery fired a superb volley towards goal, only to see it saved yet again by ter Stegen. This was more familiar. Bayern were laying siege and their opponents were out on their feet. Yet another diving save from ter Stegen denied Schweinsteiger's drive as the home crowd waited for, near on expected, an early Christmas win. Gladbach had been allowed few opportunities to break forward on the counter in the second half but nearly made the most of one when substitute de Camargo fed through Arango but Dante denied him the chance to shoot with a great block.
It was frustrating for the home side because it was one of those games they should have won and on this rare occasion, failed to do so. Heynckes said after the game he was "very happy with result" even though they "only drew one all." Bayern's manager also hailed the performance of ter Stegen, while Lucien Favre labelled Bayern's equaliser as "unnecessary" adding, "I'd rather have conceded a different kind of goal."
Ultimately, the draw really shouldn't bother Bayern. After all, they will still carry a healthy lead into Christmas and cannot have asked for a better start to the season. The title might not be under the tree this December but it certainly appears to have been gifted wrapped all the same.
So Boateng remains a question mark at centre back and although that isn't necessarily anything new, it does remain a morsel for thought over the winter break. On the same plate of thoughts is Arjen Robben. His susceptibility to injury is unfortunate but the real question is, have Bayern really missed him? Furthermore, do Bayern really need him? The final thought served up is how long does Heynckes wait before changing Gomez for Mandzukic? For me, they are completely different players. Gomez is the stronger of the two whereas Mandzukic is the more fluid, wing-like striker. Both pose two different options and so the decision to start one over the other should be based on the tactical set-up more than anything else. Starting Mandzukic against Gladbach was the right call and Gomez came on as the game changed.
Bayern München: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba - Javi Martinez (38' Shaqiri), Schweinsteiger - Müller (80' Pizarro), Kroos, Ribery - Mandzukic (57' Gomez)
Borussia Mönchengladbach: - ter Stegen - Jantschke, Brouwers, Stranzl, Wendt - Nordtveit, Marx - Cigerci (76' Xhaka), Arango - Herrmann (79' Rupp), Hanke (75' de Camargo)
Goals: 1-0 Marx (21' pen.), 1-1 Shaqiri (59')
Referee: Tobias Welz