Winning ugly

How do you motivate a side that just keeps winning? As pointed out last week, squad rotation is certainly an aspect to that but there must be more. This Bayern side already have a hunger and a desire to make right the wrongs of the previous two campaigns and it is epidemic across the entire squad. The combination of that and the strength in depth means whoever Jupp Heynckes selects, arguably irrespective of the game, they will play as if it was a cup final. Playing Tom Starke in goal against his old club on Sunday (one of five changes), was more than just good management. It was psychological and it made Andreas Müller look foolish.

At least, that was the plan. The opening twenty minutes against the troubled Hoffenheim were not particularly pleasing for Bayern. They looked disjointed and even allowed Williams to drive at goal from range. Starke looked far from what his name suggested. The more worrying thing was that the opening twenty minutes turned into the opening half an hour. There was something missing and for the first time in a long time, Bayern looked unsure for reasonably long passages of play.

Having answered the first question, Heynckes promptly saw one answered for him: How do you motivate a side that doesn't look like winning? Give Mario Gomez a goal chance. After de Camargo misplaced his pass, Boateng floated the ball from deep where Franck Ribery, of all people, nodded it into the box and after a slightly fortuitous first touch, Gomez dinked a trickling effort past Gomes to give Bayern the lead. It may not have been deserved but such is the difference when you're top of the league. Even when you play badly, you get lucky and Gomez made the most of it, scoring his 133rd Bundesliga goal in the process.

Bayern might have been forgiven for their lack of drive in the first half had they responded in the second. But they didn't. Heynckes' men had the same weary look to them as they did in their home game against Greuther Fürth. Hoffenheim were more than worthy of an equaliser but, as has been the case for much of this season, they just couldn't find the final pass or shot. Surprise captain for the day, Heurelho Gomes, urged his newly adopted side to find that final pass, showing true grit after picking up a finger injury after a late step from Shaqiri. Heynckes opted for a change and perhaps one with another psychological twist, bringing on another former Hoffenheim player in Luiz Gustavo. Starke then saved well from Schröck before Schweinsteiger struck the bar from a free kick as the game opened up in the most unlikely of fashions.

Schweinsteiger then went even closer from another set piece, clipping the inside of the left-hand post as Bayern sought a decisive second. Despite a slightly uncomfortable finish, the away side ended up not needing another goal. Bayern proved, as so many teams have during impressive and seemingly invincible seasons, that winning ugly counts for just as much when the points are counted up. They have been nothing short of devastatingly good this season and although they were far from that today, they have won their tenth comepetitve game in a row.

Even with performances like today, this remains a resurrection. With each 1-0 win, each knock-out progression, each demolition, an incredible treble continues to loom on the horizon. Next Saturday afternoon gives Fortuna Düsseldorf the chance to dampen the mood before Arsenal come to town. Will Bayern stop them scoring as well?

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim: Gomes - Ochs, Abraham, Vestergaard, Johnson - Williams, Weis - Schröck (76' Derdiyok), Volland (70' Joselu), Usami (46' Firmino) - de Camargo

FC Bayern München: Starke - Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba - Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger - Müller, Shaqiri (64' Luiz Gustavo), Ribery - Gomez (75' Mandzukic)

Goals: 0-1 Gomez (38')

Referee: Thorsten Kinhöfer
Attendance: 30, 150

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