Hamburg vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Things We Learned

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2014

Hamburg vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Things We Learned

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    Bayern Munich rebounded from Tuesday's 4-0 loss to Real Madrid on Saturday as they beat Hamburg, 4-1, at the Imtech Arena.

    The relegation-battling hosts were aggressive from the start and showed real desire over the opening half-hour, but their hopes of earning three critical points took a hefty blow on 32 minutes, as Mario Gotze opened the scoring for Bayern against the run of play.

    Gotze completed his hat-trick in the second half before Hakan Calhanoglu netted a consolation goal for the hosts. Claudio Pizarro restored Bayern's three-goal lead late with a spectacular, overhead strike.

    Especially following their recent loss, Bayern were in need of changes. And there were some tactical and individual changes from the players and coach Pep Guardiola. Here is analysis of all the action.

Bayern Play Faster, with Mixed Results

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    After Tuesday's Champions League disaster against Real Madrid, Bayern needed to make some changes. And Pep Guardiola indeed made some tactical adjustments that were noticeable before the opening kickoff.

    Javi Martinez partnered Bastian Schweinsteiger in defensive midfield, while Toni Kroos played centrally ahead of the holding pair. Thomas Muller was the lone striker, flanked by Arjen Robben and Mario Gotze, the latter of whom replaced Franck Ribery.

    Bayern played a faster and more energetic game than they have in recent weeks, covering nearly 118 kilometers in total, according to the official Bundesliga live ticker. There was less emphasis on passing for the sake of passing and more on distributing the ball in the attacking third. Bayern took more risks with the ball and only had 63.55 percent of the possession, a relatively low figure for the club. And their approach to attacking was more reminiscent of last season, although their defensive line remained very high.

    Guardiola's men did not look particularly motivated, especially for the first half-hour, and perhaps it's not worth reading too much into the details of how the game was played. But it's worth noting that Bayern played differently, with some tactical tweaks yielding positive results.

Gotze Makes Statement of Intent

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    In recent days, many pundits have criticized Franck Ribery for going anonymous in both legs of Bayern's 5-0 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals. Considered not long ago to be a hero at the club, he has been unreliable for weeks, and his inability to do anything effectual against Real was a damning indictment of his ability. Now 31 years of age, he's approaching, if not past, the end of his ability to be relied upon as he once was.

    Mario Gotze was given just 19 minutes in each leg to affect the Real tie, but he started ahead of Ribery against Hamburg and took on a leadership role.

    With Bayern struggling even to complete some simple passes at times, he took the team on his shoulders and conjured a goal from seemingly nothing: With room to pass at the edge of the box, he passed to Arjen Robben and sprinted past his marker on a diagonal run. The Dutchman played him in on goal with his first touch, and Gotze collected the ball before finishing low.

    Gotze's goal was very much against the run of play and helped settle nerves at Bayern. He pressed on in the second half and completed his hat-trick, a statement of intent. The 21-year-old's performance may have come against lesser opposition, but it could mark the beginning of a new chapter for Gotze at Bayern.

Neuer May Have Celebrated New Contract with Too Many Libations

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    On Friday, the club announced that Manuel Neuer put pen to paper on a new contract, extending his stay in Munich until 2019. The ex-Schalke man affirmed his status as an irreplaceable Bayern player, and although reports have not revealed the financial details of his contract, it's safe to assume he was granted a raise from his previous €7 million per season salary.

    The raise and new deal were reasons to celebrate, but the way he played on Saturday suggests Neuer may have been a bit too liberal with his indulgence in celebratory champagne. His typically assured footwork was suspect, and he committed many an errant pass in the opening half-hour.

    The good thing for Bayern is, Neuer was not punished for his clumsiness and made a quick recovery. His save from Rafael van der Vaart on 42 minutes was sublime.

Hamburg Give Up Far Too Easily

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    Hamburg came out fighting on Saturday but were victims of their own inefficiency. Their lack of a discernible striker was certainly a hindrance to their performance, but HSV have only themselves to blame after giving up early.

    Mirko Slomka's men were easily the better side for the first half-hour. Then Mario Gotze scored against the run of play, and all hope was immediately lost. The home crowd at the Imtech Arena was silenced, and the hosts were, frankly, terrible afterward.

    HSV were less aggressive after the opener and conceded a second to Gotze, who never should have been so ignored from a corner kick. Hamburg will drop to the second division for sure if they don't have the will to fight next week and in the potential relegation playoffs.

Calhanoglu a Step Above Hamburg

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    The one bright sign for Hamburg on Saturday was Hakan Calhanoglu, who made some smart runs that were either ignored or not properly served and, of course, scored a great goal from outside the penalty box.

    Although he recently extended his Hamburg contract until 2018, Calhanoglu is far too good for second-division football. And even if HSV avoid the drop, he's far too good to struggle in a Hamburg team that, frankly, is a toxic environment.

    Calhanoglu will probably leave Hamburg this summer, and for good reason. The club will need money from his sale in order to receive a license to play in either of the top two flights next season, and he'll be glad to have moved on.

Boateng Unlucky, but He Can't Complain for Dismissal

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    Jerome Boateng's Bundesliga season ended one week early on Saturday, as the Bayern center-back was sent off in the closing minutes of what was a comfortable win against Hamburg.

    The 25-year-old had been involved in an altercation with Kerem Demirbay after the Hamburg attacker went to ground rather easily, prompting no call of penalty from referee Marco Fritz.

    Fritz's inaction should have been enough, but Boateng approached and taunted Demirbay, who rose to his feet. The two exchanged words head-to-head before Manuel Neuer pushed Boateng away, with his team-mate appearing to take a swipe toward Demirbay in a moment of madness.

    After lengthy deliberation with his assistant, Fritz showed Demirbay a yellow card and Boateng red. The Bayern man was perhaps cruelly punished (it's still not clear that he was aiming to slap his opponent, whom he missed), but he has no grounds to complain. Fritz knew there was no foul and did not call for penalty. Boateng would have been wiser to simply wait the final four minutes out rather than accosting his opponent.


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