FC Bayern München shot out of the traps in Hoffenheim, stormed into a two-goal lead, and should have ended the contest by half-time. Instead, they had to endure some serious pressure from a revitalised opponent, before finally settling the issue three minutes from time at the renamed PreZero-Arena.
The much-needed three points keeps the Bavarians six points behind leaders Dortmund, who somehow managed to keep a clean sheet in Leipzig.
There were a number of changes for the first match after the winter break. Mats Hummels came in for Jérôme Boateng, Joshua Kimmich slotted back into the right-back role in place of Rafinha, while Leon Goretzka was back in the starting lineup alongside Javi Martínez.
With veteran wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry out injured and Serge Gnabry on the bench, coach Niko Kovač opted for new-look attacking trio behind striker Robert Lewandowski. Thiago was shifted up the pitch with Thomas Müller out the right, while Kingsley Coman made a start against the team that left him on the physio’s couch for the best part of the Hinrunde.
Bayern’s start was solid, but there were a horrible déjà vu moment when Coman was clattered early on by Stefan Posch. The Frenchman was slow to get back up, but thankfully there was no repeat of August’s horror show.
Goretzka at the double
Having established the tempo, Bayern upped the ante. The Bavarians completely dominated the opening half hour, but were unable to turn opportunities into goals. Lewandowski and Müller both shot wide, a Goretzka effort was fired straight at Hoffe ‘keeper Oliver Baumann, and Kimmich’s sharp low cross eluded everybody.
Despite the dominance – or perhaps because of it – there was a growing sense of frustration among the visiting Bayern fans. Coman completely overcooked a dangerous run, and Baumann gathered a weak jab from Hummels on the line. Moments later, Baumann produced an excellent save to deny Goretzka.
It looked like it was going to be another missed chance after 34 minutes, when Baumann produced an even better parry to keep out Lewandowski’s effort. However Goretzka was right on the spot, his shot taking the slightest of deflections off Kevin Vogt before finding the back of the net.
— Rick Joshua 🔴 (@fussballchef) January 18, 2019
The goal sparked Hoffenheim into life, and there was a fleeting moment of concern when Andrej Kramarić flopped theatrically in the Bayern box. As the clock ticked into additional time, Julian Nagelsmann’s men had a corner. The corner was quickly countered, and Die Roten swept up the pitch. David Alaba’s teasing ball was smartly finished by Goretzka, who swept the ball past Baumann and into the bottom left-hand corner. It was harder than it looked, executed with a touch of nonchalance.
Second half stagnation
The scoreline flattered Hoffenheim, and Bayern should have been out of sight. Words had clearly been said in the home dressing room; when the two teams came back out, it felt like a different match.
It took just three minutes for Nagelsmann’s men to get their first shot on goal, but Manuel Neuer was equal to it. There was a chance for Goretzka to complete his hat-trick at the other end, but this was simply a prelude for a concerted attack by the men in blue.
Suddenly, Bayern were rocking.
Having impressed in the first half, Thiago was caught in possession by Leonardo Bittencourt, who forced Neuer into a sharp save before Kerem Demirbay blasted over. Changes from Nagelsmann provided much-needed bite to the Hoffenheim midfield, and a minute before the hour they were on the board. The visitors were caught cold in their own half, the ball was quickly shifted up the pitch, and Nico Schulz beat Neuer with a lovely left-footed strike.
Bayern seal the deal
Hoffenheim should have been dead and buried, but looked to make the most of their unexpected lifeline. Bayern’s passing game was sloppy, and even the reliable Kimmich was gifting the ball to the opposition. With seven minutes left, Neuer produced his best save of the evening to deny sub Ádám Szalai. The Hungarian striker was just four yards out.
The final twist was created by James Rodríguez, replacing the off-key Thiago. With three minutes remaining, the Colombian could have taken the shot, but instead found Müller out to his right. Der Raumdeuter’s precise pass back inside was on a plate for Lewy, who finished with clinical aplomb.
Another game, another goal for @lewy_official ⚽
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) January 18, 2019
Having come so close to levelling the scores, Hoffenheim were done. It was far tougher than it should have been for Bayern, but the points were safely in the bag.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – FC Bayern München 1:3 (0:2)
Schulz 59. / Goretzka 34., 45.+1., Lewandowski 87.
Hoffenheim: Baumann – Posch, Vogt (c) (56. Grillitsch), Hübner – Demirbay (56. Geiger) – Kadeřábek, Schulz – Kramarić – Bittencourt – Joelinton – Belfodil
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels, Alaba – Martínez (90. Boateng), Goretzka – Müller, Thiago (78. James), Coman (73. Gnabry) – Lewandowski
Referee: Tobias Welz (Wiesbaden)
Yellow Cards: Kimmich 68., Martínez 83. / Vogt 26., Grillitsch 57., Posch 63.
Red Cards: – / –
Shots: 13 / 21
Passes: 433 / 563
Completed Passes: 350 / 494
Pass Success: 81% / 88%
Possession: 44% / 56%
Fouls: 14 / 9
Offsides: 1 / 1
Corners: 2 / 6