Bayern Show Progress with First Clean Sheet in Bastian Schweinsteiger's Absence

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2013

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - AUGUST 29:  Pep Guardiola the FC Bayern Munchen coach talks with Bastian Schweinsteiger during a training session prior to the UEFA Super Cup match between FC Bayern Munchen and Chelsea at Stadion Eden on August 29, 2013 in Prague, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Bayern Munich resumed their Bundesliga campaign following the international break on Saturday as they defeated Hannover 2-0 at the Allianz Arena. The Bavarians rebounded well from their draw with Freiburg in the previous matchday and claimed three points thanks to second-half goals from Mario Mandzukic and Franck Ribery.

It wasn't always easy for Bayern, who were matched by Hannover in the first half and could have entered the break a goal behind. But Mandzukic scored shortly after the break and Ribery put the game to rest on 64 minutes.

Donning special Oktoberfest-themed kits designed by Adidas with lederhosen in mind, Bayern played short of the services of midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The vice captain had missed Germany's recent World Cup qualifiers due to an ankle injury and, lacking fitness, was benched on Saturday. The absence of Schweinsteiger, as well as the injured duo Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara, meant that Pep Guardiola was forced to use Philipp Lahm out of position as the sole holding midfielder.

Before Saturday's match, Bayern had struggled to cope defensively without Schweinsteiger. Their three previous clean sheets had come only in matches in which the vice captain played. Surely enough, Freiburg needed just 11 minutes to equalize after Schweinsteiger was withdrawn. It was no coincidence that during this time they indeed produced that equalizer.

Bayern looked susceptible at times against Hannover, but nonetheless managed to keep Mirko Slomka's side off the scoreboard—not an easy thing to do against a team that is very adept in counterattacking situations.

Lahm, the skipper, looked more confident in his holding midfield role than he had in recent matches and only Daniel van Buyten (from a centre-back position) completed more passes on the day. Most critically, Lahm helped minimize Hannover's chances on the counterattack.

The result was by no means easy for Bayern to claim, but three points are three points and they were well-won against a difficult Hannover side. The fact that the Bavarians kept a clean sheet is almost as important as the result itself and suggests progress has been made in terms of internalizing Guardiola's system.

Rome was not built in a day, nor was Jupp Heynckes' treble-winning Bayern. Heynckes' team is gone and has been replaced with a very different side in terms of tactical approach.

But on Saturday we saw an easily overlooked, but very important step taken as Bayern kept a rare clean sheet without Schweinsteiger in the squad. This alone means little, but it could well be a turning point in Guardiola's first season.

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