Can 45 minutes of football change the course of a great club’s entire season? For Bayern Munich the answer was most definitely ”yes” last year.
December 8, 2009 has an almost mythical status for Bayern fans. With their season drifting aimlessly, Louis van Gaal’s men had to win at Juventus to stay in Europe.
Locked at 1-1 after 45 minutes, Bayern played an outstanding second half, scoring three unanswered goals.
The team was galvanised, winning their next seven Bundesliga games on their way to a stunning German league and cup double. A superb Champions League campaign saw the Bavarians beat Manchester United on their way to the final.
Fast forward to Basel this week. Bayern, who have had an awful start to the season, were 1-0 down at the break after Alexander Frei’s wonderful strike. The team were sweating but then Bastian Schweinsteiger came to the rescue with a brace to ensure the win.
The question on fans’ lips is whether that win in Europe will kickstart Bayern’s season, just as the one in Turin did last year.
There are three reasons why it can:
- Bayern’s rivals are in trouble. It’s hard to see Schalke, Hamburg or Bremen mounting a serious title challenge.
- Van Gaal has extended his contract till 2012 and will buy in the winter. ”I thought we could have gone far with this team but evidence shows we need new blood,” he said this week.
- Thomas Muller. Barely known outside Munich 12 months ago, he is emerging as a genuine world star and is capable of taking care of creative duties until the return of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
Still, the vultures are hovering.
Legendary former coach Ottmar Hitzfeld says Bayern are dangerously lacking in confidence.
Former centre back Lucio, still smarting from van Gaal’s decision to release him in 2009, also weighed in this week.
”I want to thank him for this decision because I won the Champions League. And he didn’t”. (No shrinking violet on the pitch, Lucio also revealed a soft centre: ”I still don’t know why he wanted to hurt me so much”).
But by their own admission, Bayern have been below-par this season. True, they are without Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, but it’s a sad fact that they’ve won only twice in the Bundesliga – and both times thanks to a last-minute goal.
”We can’t afford to make any more mistakes in the Bundesliga,” said a grim-faced Philipp Lahm this week. Their next match is at Dortmund on Sunday (17:30), a match you can watch live on Eurosport2.
Basel coach Thorsten Fink knows a thing or two about Bayern, having played for them 150 times and won the Champions League with the Bavarians. Fink wasn’t impressed: ”Bayern were lucky,” he said.
Still, it was a remarkable match in Basel – and not just because Mark van Bommel only committed one foul. The goal-shy Schweinsteiger was the match winner and normally reserved Swiss headline writers went for the jugular.
Schwein means ”pig” in German, and they labelled the Bayern victory as ”schweinisch,” which loosely translates as piggishly lucky. The midfielder, they insist, is a ”Gluckschwein.” A lucky pig.
Fortunate or not, Schweinsteiger’s goals might yet save Bayern’s bacon this year.
Follow the Bundesliga on Eurosport2 this weekend. The action kicks off with Hannover v St. Pauli (Friday, 20:30). On Saturday catch Hamburg v Kaiserslautern (live at 15:30); Borussia Moenchengladbach v Wolfsburg (17:30); and Nurenburg v Schalke (19:30). We’ll bring you two live matches on Sunday: Stuttgart v Frankfurt (15:30) and Dortmund v Bayern (17:30). And visit our Facebook site, Bundesliga On Eurosport2.