After the drama-packed midweek Champions League tie with Ajax in Amsterdam, there was a return to normality as FC Bayern ticked all of the boxes against a weak Hannover 96. With four goals and another clean sheet, the Bavarians have now stitched together three wins from their last three league outings.
Niko Kovač’s side are still nine points behind league leaders Borussia Dortmund, but everything clicked for the coach at the HDI-Arena. Die Roten are now in third spot, just behind Borussia Mönchengladbach on goal difference.
Kimmich kick-starts red rampage
Having stuck with the same starting eleven for the previous three matches, the Bayern coach made some well thought-out changes for the journey north to Lower Saxony. Jérôme Boateng, Rafinha and Franck Ribéry, all of whom started in Amsterdam, made way for Mats Hummels, Thiago Alcântara and Kingsley Coman.
It was the French winger’s first start since his injury on the opening day of the season, perfectly timed after his sweet cameo in the 3:3 draw against Ajax. Thiago’s inclusion meant that the Spaniard joined Leon Goretzka in the defensive midfield, with Joshua Kimmich shifted back to his more customary position at right-back.
There was also a major milestone for Thomas Müller, who was starting his 300th Bundesliga match for FC Bayern.
3⃣0⃣0⃣ Bundesliga games.
— FC Bayern US (@FCBayernUS) December 15, 2018
Having made waves on social media for his floppy hairstyle and spiv moustache, Kimmich stepped out looking like a fresh recruit at West Point. His play would match the new look.
After just 62 seconds, the Bavarians got the perfect start. The provider: Kimmich. After Müller did well to hook the ball back into play from the byline, Hannover defender Luis Felipe’s weak clearance fell perfectly for Kimmich, who met the ball on the volley from eighteen yards. ‘Keeper Michael Esser did his best, but was never going to get there.
— FC Bayern US (@FCBayernUS) December 15, 2018
Bayern have been troubled by defensively-minded teams this season, and this would have been Hannover’s plan. The early goal changed all that. André Breitenreiter’s men were forced back even further as the Bavarians upped the tempo and continued to press.
The chances started to come, but Kovač’s men could again look at missed opportunities. Müller, David Alaba and Goretzka could have all done a little better, and leading scorer Robert Lewandowski was denied by Esser after a lovely assist from the ubiquitous Kimmich. It was no exaggeration to say that the kid was everywhere, and the Hannover players must have felt that there were two Bayern players sporting the mint-green number 32 shirt.
It was a Kimmich corner that created the second goal after 29 minutes, and at a push you could even call it an assist. The outswinging Eckball was poorly cleared by Henrik Weydandt, and David Alaba did the rest. From well over twenty yards, the Austrian left-back’s thunderous left-footed strike found the top-right corner of the net.
It was a thing of beauty. The ball crashing into the goal, with the desperate Esser grasping at thin air.
⚽ Kimmich 2'
⚽ Alaba 29'
— Goal (@goal) December 15, 2018
Weydandt grazed the frame of the Bayern goal as the home side created their best opportunity, but the biggest shock was that Bayern were only two goals in front at the break. While poor finishing had played a part, Esser had been Hannover’s best player by a considerable distance.
Two goals in nine minutes
The first half masterclass continued into the second. Thiago had bossed the midfield, and unleashed a delicious pass to find who-know-who out on the right after 53 minutes. A sharp pass back inside found Serge Gnabry in acres of space.
With a mix of physicality, persistence and a little luck, the winger bundled his way past Kevin Wimmer before poking the ball past the helpless Esser. Bayern were now out of sight, and it was a matter of how many more they were going to score.
It took just nine minutes for the visitors to add a fourth, though Esser was playing out of his skin to keep the score respectable. Having pulled off a couple of excellent saves to keep out Müller, there was little the H96 ‘keeper could do to deny Lewandowski, who timed his leap perfectly to meet Kimmich’s floated cross. (Yes, him again). It was the Pole’s tenth league goal, and his 22nd of the season in all competitions.
Of course, @lewy_official had to score too! ❌
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) December 15, 2018
Bayern then started to wind things down, while retaining their stranglehold in midfield. There were chances to add a fifth goal, and Lewandowski will be wondering just how he managed to find the side netting in the last minute.
With two matches of the Hinrunde remaining, Bayern are still nine points behind Borussia Dortmund. However, a slip-up from second-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach means that Die Roten are level on 30 points with die Fohlen.
Next up, RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena.
Hannover 96 – FC Bayern München 0:4 (0:2)
– / Kimmich 2., Alaba 29., Gnabry 53., Lewandowski 62.
Hannover: Esser – Anton (c), Felipe (46. Maina), Wimmer – Haraguchi, Schwegler, Walace, Ostrzolek – Asano (63. Muslija) – Weydandt, Füllkrug (73. Elez)
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels, Alaba (73. Rafinha) – Goretzka, Thiago – Gnabry, Coman (73. Renato Sanches) – Müller (79. Wagner) – Lewandowski
Referee: Sören Storks (Velen)
Yellow Cards: Felipe 13. / –
Red Cards: – / –
Shots: 3 / 33
Passes: 298 / 755
Completed Passes: 220 / 690
Pass Success: 74% / 91%
Possession: 28% / 72%
Fouls: 9 / 6
Offsides: 0 / 2
Corners: 0 / 14