Hannover 96 vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Things We Learned
Bayern Munich returned to Bundesliga action on Sunday with an impressive 4-0 win over lively Hannover 96 at the Niedersachsenstadion.
Bavarian coach Pep Guardiola opted for a complete change over from the side that overcame Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday night with vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger coming into the side along with the likes of Jerome Boateng and Thomas Mueller.
As such, it was Hannover that seemed to enjoy the bounce of the ball in the opening period of the first half, with half chances coming from Artjoms Rudnevs and Sebastien Pocognoli in the first 15 minutes.
Alas, Bayern eventually found a way through when Mueller found Rafinha on the wing before galloping into the box to head the Brazilian's cross back into the Hannover box. It was a goal completely against the run of play but one that turned the complete nature of the game.
The away side then struck again before half time when a cleared free-kick found a lingering Schweinsteiger 30 yards out and unmarked. The German international then floated the ball back into the Hannover box where an onrushing Thiago Alcantara coolly chested the ball down and casually knocked it past Ron-Robert Zieler in goal.
Despite a bright start from the home side, it was Bayern that went in at the break with two clear goals to the good.
The second half panned out in much the same manner as Hannover continued to do their best to exert themselves in the only way they know how when playing at home, yet it was Bayern again that eventually claimed all the goals.
Throughout the game, Hannover actually had a number of decent chances, but it was Mueller again who stepped up and scored another impressive goal in the 59th minute to confirm all three points for Bayern on the day. Seven minutes later, a smart cross from Rafinha found the head of Mario Mandzukic to make it four.
Bayern hadn't perhaps been at their best, but with four goals and a clean sheet to boot, it was another confident display from the current champions.
Here's what we took from the game.
Javi Martinez Is Bayern's Newest Centre Back
Any outlasting cries for Javi Martinez to remain an integral part of Bayern's midfield were surely silenced on Wednesday night when the Spaniard huffed and puffed amongst the quicker, more technical Arsenal midfield.
It was only once Guardiola moved him back into the back four that we finally saw the best of Martinez, and as we have seen since his return from injury, the player simply suits playing in defence under Guardiola's new system. A box-to-box midfielder he may be at heart, but at Bayern, he looks set to be a strong, complete defender.
Hannover's Impressive Home Run Comes to an End
Hannover were never expected to overcome the might of Bayern considering their poor form this season, but following a home record that had seen them lose just one game in their last 11 in all competitions, some may have expected the side to have pushed the Bavarian champions a little more throughout the game.
Yes, the home side had a number of chances in the first half, and players such as Rudnevs and Didier Ya Konan came close in the second half, but the margins in which Bayern won the game don't offer much to suggest that they didn't walk to these three points.
Squad Rotation Is Guardiola's Real Secret Weapon
With a few surprised faces, Guardiola began Sunday's match with a host of new faces as Dante, Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben and Manuel Neuer all made way following their success in Europe this week.
In came players of equal calibre, such as Schweinsteiger, Mueller and Boateng, to offer what was eventually another seamless transition from one win to the next.
Of course, Guardiola didn't need to make so many changes, yet with the wealth of quality at his disposal, the Spanish coach is clearly making an effort to continuously offer equal playing time to each of his stars in the hope that they all stay fresh throughout the season. This, more than any individual amount of quality, could prove to set his side apart from the rest in Germany and Europe.
Mueller Continues Incredible Degree of Consistency
With a powerful header almost all too synonymous with the young German forward, Mueller put his side ahead in Sunday's game with a goal that lines up as just one in so many this season.
The Bayern forward now has 20 goals to add to his 11 assists in just 33 games in all competitions this season, yet it is the manner in which he scores them that makes them all the more impressive.
It is in the big matches, such as last week's showdown with Arsenal, that he truly steps up, but with a pattern that shows the German prodigy either scoring or offering an assist at least once in every two games this season, it comes as no surprise as to why this player is so highly coveted throughout the sport right now.
Schweinsteiger Returns with a Bang
With the likes of Thiago, Kroos and even Philipp Lahm pulling the strings for Bayern this season, it must have come as quite a surprise for some fans to see Schweinsteiger back in the midfield again, making the passes like he used to do last season.
The German international has been unfortunate with injuries of late, but as we saw on Sunday, when he's at his peak condition, Schweinsteiger is clearly still one of the best central midfielders in the world.
With more passes than any other attacking player in the Bayern squad (73) and more than Hannover's two highest passers combined (Szabolcs Huszti and Zieler) before coming off, he returned to his favoured club and showed just how important he really is.
That's all without even mentioning that wonderful chipped pass for the second goal!
Korkut Enjoying Mixed Success with Hannover
Replacing long-term coach Mirko Slomka was never going to be an easy task for any manager, but with Tayfun Korkut now five matches into his tenure at Hannover, it may be safe to say that he has done reasonably well without really surprising either fans nor foe.
The club's bright start to 2014, with wins over Wolfsburg and Gladbach, went a long way to dispelling fears of relegation, but with Sunday's predicted loss to Bayern, the side have now lost their last three games while keeping their spot in 11th place.