Bayern Munich advanced to the semi-final stage of the 2016 DFB-Pokal after beating second-division side VfL Bochum 3-0 at the Ruhrstadion on Wednesday night thanks to goals from Robert Lewandowski, who struck twice, and Thiago Alcantara.
Thomas Muller also missed a penalty when Bochum were reduced to 10 late in the first half after winger Arjen Robben won a controversial and soft penalty. Yet despite their disadvantage, the home side proved a tough nut to crack, defending valiantly and making things difficult for Germany's record Cup-holders.
Manager Pep Guardiola's Bundesliga table-toppers will now face top-flight rivals Werder Bremen in the final four, after DW Sports confirmed the full draw:
So the 2016 German Cup Semifinals are:— DW Sports (@dw_sports) February 10, 2016
Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich vs. Werder Bremen
Games on April 19/20.
Bochum boss Gertjan Verbeek picked a strong side, featuring goalkeeper Manuel Riemann. The group also contained left-back Timo Perthel, with his deputy, Jan Simunek, on the bench. Both would be key figures in the game's most controversial moment.
WhoScored.com provided the full Bochum team.
Meanwhile, Guardiola picked a side that mixed experienced stars with fringe players for this tricky tie, per Squawka Football:
Bayern Munich XI vs. Bochum: Neuer; Lahm, Badstuber, Alaba; Alonso, Kimmich, Thiago, Muller; Costa, Robben, Lewandowski.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 10, 2016
His starting XI included veteran midfield playmaker Xabi Alonso and Robben, along with young utility player Joshua Kimmich.
The 21-year-old struggled early on as the home side crowded the midfield and pressed down the flanks on the break. Not in awe of their illustrious opponents and taking advantage of a less than perfect pitch, Bochum pushed Bayern back and rattled the Munich defence.
Kimmich's uncertain positioning drew an admonishing word or two from fellow centre-back Holger Badstuber. Bayern were rocking early on but always found Robben a dangerous outlet.
Alonso's sprayed passes from distance regularly released the jet-heeled wide man against Perthel. But he was game early on, drawing Robben into a pair of fouls. Unfortunately, those fouls forced Perthel off for Simunek.
Before the Czech Republic defender could become embroiled in controversy, Bayern took the lead courtesy of Lewandowski. The free-scoring Pole combined brilliantly with Muller, with the latter producing a smart touch to tee up Lewandowksi to slot home a side-foot finish.
The goal continued Lewandowski's fine recent form in front of goal:
Robert Lewandowski bags his 28th goal of the season across all competitions, and fifth in his last four games. pic.twitter.com/aBoBO1JoyI— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 10, 2016
It also underlined Munich's reliance on the ex-Dortmund No. 9 so far this year:
Bayern's first 5 goals of 2016, scored by:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 10, 2016
Bayern almost doubled their lead when Robben was felled by Simunek for a penalty, despite the contact appearing minimal. DW Sports certainly felt Robben had made the most of the incident:
That looks like a dive from Arjen Robben. #BOCFCB— DW Sports (@dw_sports) February 10, 2016
Still, the official gave Simunek a red card for the apparent foul, and things looked bleak for the hosts. It was a brief and dismal cameo for Simunek, as OptaFranz noted:
14 - There have been 14 minutes between the substition of Simunek and his Red card. Quickie. #BOCFCB— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) February 10, 2016
But Muller soon saw his rather tame spot-kick turned over by Riemann to preserve the score at the half.
The red card naturally saw Verbeek reshuffle, swapping former Arsenal attacking midfielder Thomas Eisfeld with defender Malcolm Cacutalua.
Bayern started the half by dominating on the flanks. Terrific wing play from first Douglas Costa then Robben nearly teed up Lewandowski. Then it was Costa's turn to create a chance for Robben, but the Dutchman spurned it.
Munich's official site tweeted an image of the chance:
Bayern were then given a free-kick in a promising area after some reckless defending from Bochum, who seemed more concerned with roughing up Lewandowksi than stopping him, per DW Sports:
56 - Patrick Fabian goes all testosterone crazy on Lewandowski. Unnecessary free kick... #BOCFCB— DW Sports (@dw_sports) February 10, 2016
But it wasn't until just after the hour mark when Bayern finally doubled the lead. The goal came from a move that began with a throw-in.
Robben received the ball and scooped a pass over the full-back for Muller, a ball the striker cut back to the penalty spot for Thiago to bundle in. It was a slick move.
That made it a pair of assists for the tireless and shrewd Muller, further evidence of his place as one of Bayern's primary creative outlets this season:
Lewandowski and Muller then missed excellent chances for a third before Costa blazed over in front of an open goal.
Guardiola took advantage of a comfortable lead to give some key squad players valuable minutes during the closing stages, including gifted full-back Juan Bernat, midfield action man Arturo Vidal and Brazilian defender Rafinha.
The lively Robben rolled a pass through for Lewandowski to complete his brace seconds before the full-time whistle.
Naturally, most of the post-match reaction focused on the penalty decision. Speaking to Das Erste (h/t DW Sports), Verbeek was clear Robben's supposed play-acting had forced the referee's hand:
Verbeek: "That's Arjen Robben. When he feels the contact, he hits the floor. For me, it wasn't a penalty or a red card." #BOCFCB— DW Sports (@dw_sports) February 10, 2016
By contrast, Robben insisted the decision was justified by a legitimate foul:
Robben: "Glad to have the protection [of the officials]. A foul is a foul. No foul is no foul. It was a 100% penalty." #BOCFCB— DW Sports (@dw_sports) February 10, 2016
Regardless of the veracity of the penalty call, Verbeek felt his team was more than in it before Simunek's dismissal:
Verbeek: "What should I say? We played well in the first half and had chances. If we had had 11 players... No chance with 10." #BOCFCB— DW Sports (@dw_sports) February 10, 2016
Bayern continue to look ominous as potential tournament winners. Guardiola's men didn't quite fire on all cylinders in the last eight but still negotiated a potentially tough tie with room to spare.
With important squad members back in the fray, Guardiola's group has the resources to lift the Cup come the end of the season.