SGL Arena, Augsburg - FC Bayern München played up to their 'Goliath' status in the first half, but allowed their underdog neighbors FC Augsburg to believe they could slay the German giants, having to sweat out the final minutes and hold on for a 2-1 win Sunday night.
The victory gives Munich 9 wins in 12 league matches and extends Munich's lead in the Bundesliga table to 5 points heading into the international break. This was Munich's third consecutive win against Bavarian teams in the past 10 days, outscoring FC Ingolstadt in the German Cup and both 1.FC Nuremberg and Augsburg a combined 12-1.
The match was thought to be over early when Mario Gomez cleaned up a loose ball in front of the goal in the 16th minute. Frank Ribéry's corner originally hit Daniel van Buyten's head, hit off goalkeeper Mohamed Amsif's glove and found Gomez's head who aimed it to the back of the net. It was the German international's league leading 13th goal.
Minutes later, Thomas Müller ran into open space in front of goal, drawing the defense to him. He dished it off to Ribéry, who created space, dribbling past defender Dominik Reinhardt to the left, shot far post and beat Amsif. 2-0 for Bayern after 28 minutes.
Amsif was making his first ever Bundesliga start due to regular starter Simon Jentzsch's ring finger injury. Talk about your baptism by fire, facing the league's top scoring team. However Amsif held his own for the final 60 minutes.
"It was tense at the beginning, I had butterflies in my stomach," explained the 22-year old German. "But I got into the flow and I played up to my ability the rest of the match."
If Augsburg had a chance in this match, it would be to take advantage of a Bayern team playing it's fifth match in 14 days and without mainstay Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is out the next month with a broken collarbone.
And the Bavarians missed Schweini's leadership in the second half. Munich came out listless, perhaps thinking the rest of the match would be just as easy as the first 45 minutes. The first half statistics were clearly in Bayern's favor, outshooting their hosts 10-4 in the first and leading the possession battle.
"We expected this kind of battle, and started off the match strong and got an early lead," said Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes. "A third goal would have put the match away, however Augsburg fought back."
Ten minutes after the break, Augsburg started to build momentum and most of the sold out crowd of 30,660 could feel it. Shortly before the hour mark, Tobias Werner's corner dangerously bounced around the area, Bayern could not clear it and Hajime Hosogai shot it in to cut the lead in half and ignite the crowd.
Augsburg continued to attack, outshooting Bayern over the next 15 minutes. And it seemed like they would draw even when substitute Edmond Kapllani received a beautiful through-ball from Daniel Baier and found himself all alone in front of goal, facing goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Kapllani took a step, shot it with his left foot, and arguably the world's best keeper got a glove on it and saved victory for Munich.
A year after overachieving to earn promotion to the Bundesliga, FCA may be in a for a long season to stay up. They are in last place by a good margin and the lowest scoring team in the league.
"This is tough, we tried everything to tie the match and had a great chance to do so," a down-trodden Paul Verhaegh admitted. "I think we had a great performance but once again walked away with empty hands."
"The team played with a lot of heart and tried hard with the great support of the fans," said Augsburg head coach Jos Luhukay. "It's a shame we didn't take advantage of that great chance at the end, a point would have been well deserved. But I am proud of my team of team tonight."
Bayern as a team are off the next two weeks. It will be interesting to see which of their players who have been called up for international duty will actually play, as Germany have already qualified for this summer's Euro 2012.
"Philipp Lahm was not nominated and (starting keeper) Neuer will not play the first match (against the Ukraine) and this should give Jogi Löw the chance to experiment with other players," hoped Heynckes. "We will have time to analyze this match and prepare for the next match."
Their rest will be appreciated as a huge matchup looms November 19th when defending league champs and current chasers Borussia Dortmund come to the Allianz Arena.