Bundesliga champions: Bayern Munich rule Germany yet again
On Saturday, Bayern Munich did what Manchester City could not. Admittedly against lesser competition, die Roten were crowned league champions. In their case, it was for the sixth season in a row and their 28th Bundesliga title in total.
Unlike City's meteoric rise after decades in United's shadow, Bayern finishing top has become a tedious, extremely predictable modus operandi. The Bavarians clinched their latest Meisterschale at Bavarian neighbours Ausgburg. Corentin Tolisso, James Rodriguez, Arjen Robben, and Sandro Wagner helped the visitors recover from an early blip to win 4-1.
It’s been an atypical campaign for Bayern. They endured a gruelling start, five points adrift of Borussia Dortmund after six games. Carlos Ancelotti’s powerful mojo was no longer working. He lost his tactical charm and the dressing room too. Inconsistent performance bereft of an obvious playing philosophy was the culprit. A thorough thrashing delivered by Paris Saint-Germain in France was the final straw.
Rescue expert Jupp Heynckes was called out of retirement. He had taken to his garden having won the treble, Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, and Champions League. He was content to stay on leave until the club called again. It's been a happy reunion with Thomas Muller, Robben, Frank Ribery, and others on hand to welcome him back.
Heynckes quickly turned the tables. Confidence, cohesion and fluency flooded back into the squad with the little old man in the technical area. Bayern began to play with its customary swagger and style. Successive wins over Celtic and Hamburg followed an astonishing 5-0 victory on his fourth debut. His squad would demolish 14 of their next 15 opponents, including hitting eight past Dortmund over both legs.
The streak was expected to end at the WWK Arena this weekend. Separated by a mere 49 miles, there is no love lost between these sides. Like derbies in every other part of the world, fireworks and surprises were anticipated. By their limited standard, the Fuggerstadter are having an excellent season, sitting 11th, well above the relegation fray. They're well on track to finish better than last season's 13th. Pundits expected Bayern to have problems, especially with fullback Philipp Max, the division's highest assist provider.
True to the script, Bayern succumbed to a relentless early assault. Jerome Boateng, under no pressure, fluffed his lines. Sergio Cordova pounced. Dispossessing the centre-half, the Venezuelan had only Sven Ulreich to beat. Manuel Neuer's able deputy blocked the shot, but it ricocheted off a hapless Nicklas Sule’s face, into the net.
Bayern equalised out of the blue when Tolisso was left unmarked to head in from Joshua Kimmich’s cross in the 32nd minute. Then the Bavarians took the game by the scruff of the neck. Rodriguez slipped the ball home from Juan Bernat’s clever backheel six minutes later. The Colombian also set up Robben for the third, when he hooked the ball back from the touchline just after the hour. Wagner added the fourth in the 86th minute.
Home away from home
In a strange quirk, Bayern has not clinched a league title in a home game since the year 2000 - meaning they have never done it since moving to the Allianz Arena. They have sealed 11 of their 12 domestic honours since then by winning or drawing away matches, with the 2014/15 championship secured on a day when they were not even playing. The victory in Augsburg was the second time in this run they have wrapped it up in Bavaria, following a 2-1 win at Ingolstadt in 2016. Die Roten faithful won't be too bothered. As long as they are winning, all is well in the world.