Bayern Munich vs. Kaiserslautern: 6 Things We Learned
Bayern Munich ended their run of disappointing domestic results with an emphatic 5-1 win against Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals.
Five different players were on the scoresheet for Pep Guardiola's side as they rekindled the rampant form they have displayed all season long.
The win sets up a dream final against Borussia Dortmund on May 17 in Berlin and keeps Bayern on course for another treble.
Although Bayern were always favorites against the 2. Bundesliga outfit, the win was significant in quite a few ways.
6. Crisis? What Crisis?
Despite a three-game run in the league without a win, despite having their 53-match unbeaten run abruptly ended by Augsburg and despite some lacklustre performances in the past month, the talks of Bayern being in mini slump are overblown.
Bayern were back to their best against Kaiserslautern, and it did not take long for them to establish control and put the game beyond Kaiserslautern's reach after a spirited start from the 2. Bundesliga outfit. It was the kind of dominant control Guardiola has been advocating all season.
When Kaiserslautern pulled a goal back at the hour mark, Bayern were already in a groove and quickly saw to it that the game ended heavily in their favour. Guardiola admitted after the game that it was a good step forward in re-establishing team spirit.
5. Bayern Maintain Incredible Home Record in the Cup
Bayern were rightfully considered heavy favorites going into this game, but that is not just down to their form this season alone. Throughout history, they have established an unparalleled home record in the German Cup.
Bayern have been eliminated from the DFB-Pokal at home just once in their last 30 matches. In fact, they have lost only nine times on home turf in 79 years in the competition. That incredible run continued with their win against Kaiserslautern.
It has become virtually impossible for teams to beat Bayern at home, let alone in a one-off in the Cup. Schalke did it in 2011, but that was an isolated incident in what looks to remain a long streak of winning performances in front of their home supporters.
4. The Treble Hunt Continues
Bayern are still on course for an unprecedented repeat treble, something no other European club side has ever accomplished. But the path will not be easy.
Sporting director Matthias Sammer voiced his dissatisfaction with their performance after the game, saying that Bayern still needed to raise their game if they wanted to bring home the remaining two trophies.
The truth is that Bayern's game has not been at its best in the last month, and Sammer believes that the team has lost the spark that made them virtually untouchable earlier in the season. Bayern are still in pole position to bring home the DFB-Pokal and Champions League, but they will need to regain total focus to see the season out accordingly.
3. Robben Remains Invaluable
Arjen Robben was on the pitch against Kaiserslautern for just 60 minutes, but in that hour he was absolutely magical. He was involved in all three goals up to that point and took over the game almost single-handedly.
The Dutchman assisted Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger's goals and won the penalty that Thomas Muller eventually converted. Robben was at the heart of all Bayern attacks and caused Kaiserslautern nightmares down the right side from start to finish.
Last year, Franck Ribery deservedly received all the plaudits. This year, Philipp Lahm has been in the spotlight following his tactical transition, but in both seasons Robben has been a difference-maker and consistent performer when it matters most.
2. Guardiola Right to Experiment
One of the criticisms levelled at Bayern in the last month or so has been the consistent tactical changes and rotation of the squad. Guardiola rested most of his senior players in the league and made bold tactical changes in their big Champions League quarter-final game against Manchester United.
And when results did not go their way, Guardiola's tinkering was largely seen as the reason. The inconsistency and instability is said to have caused the poor results in the league and in the first leg of the tie with United.
However, without Guardiola's tactical changes, it can be argued that Bayern would not have reached their great heights this season. His decision to move Lahm into midfield and use Mario Gotze up front have been visibly beneficial to the team's performances and development.
His biggest challenge was always to keep a team that won everything motivated, and so far he has won the league in record time, reached a cup final and is two games away from the club's fourth Champions League final in five years.
Bayern vs Dortmund Rivalry Reignited
For a while this season it looked as though Bayern's dominance would make their usually fiery encounters with Dortmund a mere formality. But an unforgettable Dortmund win in Munich last week and off-pitch quarrels between the clubs' leaderships has sparked the fire anew.
Bayern and Dortmund officials had it out in the media this past week, while a fast and furious Dortmund side inflicted Bayern's biggest competitive defeat in almost two years. Not since 2008 had Bayern been so soundly beaten at home. Suffice to say, it cause quite the outcry within the club and the press.
The pressure will now be on Bayern to set things straight in the DFB-Pokal final, remembering well the 5-2 loss against Dortmund in the corresponding matchup two years ago. For Dortmund, it is their last chance to go out with a trophy this season.
Suffice to say, there are no shortages of narratives and storylines heading in to what will surely be a heated contest.