FC Bayern München rounded off the Bundesliga Hinrunde in fine style with a masterful display, with veteran Franck Ribéry netting twice as fifth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt were calmly and clinically dispatched at the Commerzbank Arena.
The Bavarians close 2018 six points adrift of leaders Borussia Dortmund, but clear in second place. With two months of rest and recharging time, the challenge is on.
Enforced changes, early Frankfurt pressure
Having worked towards a more consistent selection approach, Bayern coach Niko Kovač was forced by circumstance into making a number of changes to the starting lineup. After his injury in the midweek match against RB Leipzig, the in-form Serge Gnabry was replaced by Franck Ribéry, while the late withdrawal of Mats Hummels saw a recall for Jérôme Boateng.
Leon Goretzka was also unfit to start, and there was plenty of rejigging as the coach changed the formation too. Joshua Kimmich moved back into the centre of the park to join Thiago, while Javi Martínez was brought in as a single six. With Kimmich back in midfield, the reliable Rafinha was brought back in at right-back.
The unlucky man was Kingsley Coman, who was one of a very thin-looking bench. It is fair to say that the winter break has come just at the right time for Die Roten.
It would take a little time for the Bavarians to adjust to the changes, and they had to endure something of a barrage from the home side in what was a frenetic opening ten minutes.
The dangerous Luka Jović had an early sight of goal for die Adler, while Danny da Costa forced Manuel Neuer into making a sharp save after seven minutes. Moments later, the speedy Sébastien Haller was brilliantly marshalled by Niklas Süle before Rafinha closed down Jović.
Bayern fight back
Having survived the opening salvo from Adi Hütter’s men, Bayern slowly started to claw their way back into the contest. Frankfurt ‘keeper Kevin Trapp was tested both by David Alaba and Martínez, and after 25 minutes Ribéry’s skidding cross for Robert Lewandowski was well intercepted by Mijat Gaćinović.
The visitors now had the upper hand. Da Costa turned a Kimmich free-kick behind, and Trapp somehow won a free-kick as he flapped and flailed under pressure at a corner.
It was the perfect opportunity for Bayern to strike, and strike they did. When Evan N’Dicka failed to control the ball, Thomas Müller seized the opportunity. With plenty of space down the right, der Raumdeuter found Lewandowski with a short pass inside, and the Pole repeated the trick, nutmegging Simon Falette in the process. It was set up perfectly on a plate for Ribéry, who tucked the ball past Trapp.
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) December 22, 2018
The veteran winger had little time to recover before he was clattered by an opponent, and then had to face the inevitable boos and howls from the home crowd as he returned to the pitch. He responded by charging deep into the opposition half and picking out Thiago, but the Spaniard’s shot was weak and easily collected by Trapp.
Right on the brink of half-time, Bayern almost doubled their lead. A teasing Lewandowski cross was brilliantly met by Müller, whose firm glancing header rattled the crossbar. Moments later, Alaba sent a skidding ball across the face of the Frankfurt goal.
Frankfurt fizzle out, Ribéry doubles up
If Bayern had muscled their way into the contest in the first half, they took control in the second. The much-praised Frankfurt attack was closed right down, with Süle the standout in a solid Bavarian back four. Martínez was also a towering presence, as Haller, Jović and company were completely nullified.
While opportunities were fleeting for Frankfurt, Bayern continued to press. There was a more than decent penalty shout after 52 minutes when Lewandowski twice had his shirt tugged, and five minutes later the Polish striker made his way into the opposition box. A pretty ugly effort from Müller followed a blistering run from Alaba, and Ribéry was in the wars again.
As the match entered the final quarter, Bayern were banging hard on the door. Thiago had kept things ticking over nicely, and it was he who set up the decisive second goal. After winning the ball, the Spanish international picked out assist king Kimmich, who in turn found the busy Ribéry.
The Frenchman had plenty of space and time to pick his target, but it was not the best of finishes. Not that it mattered. Aiming for the far corner, Ribéry shinned his shot, which crept inside the near post and wrong-footing the unfortunate Trapp.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) December 22, 2018
A little bit of luck
Unlike in previous matches, the Bavarians managed the end of the game brilliantly, and Frankfurt had nothing more to offer. As the clock ticked towards the end of the ninety minutes, Rafinha, in space out by the right touchline, had all the time in the world to do anything he wanted. The little Brazilian could have simply passed the ball back and continued to wind down the clock, but chose to send in a cross instead.
Lewandowski was lurking in the area, but Rafinha’s cross was far too strong. His eyes locked on the Polish striker, Trapp was caught out completely, and could only flap at the ball as it flew unerringly into the top left-hand corner of the net.
After playing so well, the Bavarians had deserved a little bit of luck. If anything, it was well overdue. The result was not in the least bit flattering.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) December 22, 2018
Bayern are now six points behind Dortmund, and three clear of Borussia Mönchengladbach. BVB, we are coming for you! 2018 is done, and we could not have asked for a better December. Happy Christmas!
Eintracht Frankfurt – FC Bayern München 0:3 (0:1)
– / Ribéry 35., 79., Rafinha 89.
Frankfurt: Trapp – Salcedo, Falette, Ndicka – da Costa, Fernandes (c) (69. N. Müller), Kostić – Gaćinović (43. de Guzman), Willems – Jović, Haller
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Rafinha, Süle, Boateng, Alaba – Martínez – Kimmich, Thiago – T. Müller (90. Shabani), Ribéry (90. Coman) – Lewandowski (90.+1. Wagner)
Referee: Manuel Gräfe (Berlin)
Yellow Cards: Alaba 76. / Fernandes 37., de Guzman 66.
Red Cards: – / –
Shots: 10 / 9
Passes: 355 / 565
Completed Passes: 262 / 469
Pass Success: 74% / 83%
Possession: 39% / 61%
Fouls: 10 / 5
Offsides: 4 / 2
Corners: 3 / 4