It was grim, gritty and far from pretty to watch, but once again FC Bayern München did what they had to do. Against a typically obdurate Hertha BSC at the Allianz Arena, the Bavarians produced their first clean sheet of 2019.
Capping off a titanic individual performance, Javi Martínez secured all three points as the Bavarians continue to keep table-toppers Borussia Dortmund firmly in their sights.
Team tweaks, a tough start
Bayern coach Niko Kovač made three changes to the team that had started in midweek against Liverpool. Mats Hummels was out with a cold and was replaced by Jérôme Boateng, while there were some rotations further up the pitch. Thiago and Kingsley Coman were both on the bench, making way for the fit-again Leon Goretzka and Franck Ribéry.
It is fair to say that Hertha adopt a similar approach every time they are up against Bayern, and Pál Dárdai’s team were true to form. The Berliners pressed high in their attempt to stifle the home side’s creativity, and the Bavarians were unable to make the start they wanted.
The visitors did have the ball in the Bayern net after eleven minutes, but there was a clear offside in the buildup before young German striker Davie Selke finished the move. Bayern would have to wait until the 15th minute for their first sight of goal, with Joshua Kimmich firing narrowly wide.
The first half would finish goalless, and opportunities for either side were scarce. The visitors came close to scoring when Salomon Kalou’s 28th minute effort was cleared by Boateng, and five minutes later Berlin ‘keeper Rune Jarstein parried a Ribéry effort, though the flag had already been raised for offside.
Goretzka was switched out for Thiago at the start of the second half, but the visitors continued to stifle the frustrated Bavarians. Despite having less of the ball, Dárdai’s men created their second decent chance in the 56th minute. Ondrej Duda and Selke combined brilliantly, but Kimmich was in the right place at the right time to deny the visitors.
Hertha were good value for the scoreline, but two minutes after the hour the Bayern opened the scoring. A James corner was swept into the box, and Martínez was there first to meet it, his header beating on the oncoming Jarstein. Finally, the home fans had something to cheer about.
Table update 📊
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) February 23, 2019
Coman calamity, Rekik sees red
Four minutes before Martínez’s goal, the Bayern coach had looked to up the ante by swapping out Ribéry for Coman. Less than ten minutes later, the young winger was in turn making way for Thomas Müller. Coman has found it hard to get a decent break this season, and not for the first time was helped off the pitch with a nasty-looking knock.
Kingsley Coman is down with an apparent hamstring injury. Thomas Müller replaces him pic.twitter.com/ed7a7AyNSt
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) February 23, 2019
With the goal safe in the bank, Die Roten started to tighten things up at the back. Clean sheets in the Bundesliga have been a rare thing, but this time there was to be no late disaster.
The final act was a rather theatrical scene that saw Robert Lewandowski clash with Hertha defender Karim Rekik. Responding to an earlier challenge by the Polish striker, the Dutchman took the law into his own hands. Or rather his swinging arms. Lewandowski went down, and referee Harm Osmers flashed the red card. In truth, it looked a little harsh.
Reduced to ten men, Hertha’s challenge was finally snuffed out. Bayern had played poorly and had been slightly lucky, but these are the moments that are crucial to winning Bundesliga titles. With leaders Dortmund up against Bayer Leverkusen tomorrow, Bayern are level at the top of 51 points.
FC Bayern München – Hertha BSC 1:0 (0:0)
Martínez 62. / –
FC Bayern: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Süle, Boateng, Alaba – Martínez, Goretzka (46. Thiago) – James – Gnabry, Ribéry (58. Coman, 67. Müller) – Lewandowski
Hertha: Jarstein – Stark, Lustenberger, Rekik – Lazaro, Mittelstädt – Grujić, Maier (79. Dárdai) – Duda – Kalou (c) (79. Jastrzembski), Selke
Referee: Harm Osmers (Hannover)
Yellow Cards: Kimmich 51., James 90.+1. / –
Red Cards: – / Rekik 85.
Shots: 12 / 9
Passes: 599 / 378
Completed Passes: 506 / 276
Pass Success: 84% / 73%
Possession: 62% / 38%
Fouls: 12 / 8
Offsides: 6 / 2
Corners: 11 / 3