Depleted Bayern Munich Still Too Strong in Comfortable Eintracht Frankfurt Win

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2015

Bayern's Thomas Mueller, 3rd left, celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Eintracht Frankfurt in the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, on Saturday, April 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Bayern Munich strolled to victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, beating the Adler 3-0 in an all-round convincing performance.

Robert Lewandowski put the hosts ahead after just a quarter of an hour with a wonder-strike, putting the visitors in the driver's seat.

The Polish striker completed his brace on 66 minutes to essentially kill off Frankfurt's hope of taking a point, and Thomas Muller made it 3-0 shortly before full time to round off a comprehensive victory.

At first glance, the result may look like business as usual in the Bundesliga. But the manner in which Bayern managed to earn their points was particularly striking.

In recent weeks, key player after key player has dropped out of the Bayern squad due to injury. First it was Arjen Robben, then David Alaba. More recently, Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger have been absent. And earlier this week, Mehdi Benatia joined the list of injured stars.

On Saturday, Bayern faced Frankfurt with just 15 players. Their bench was barely large enough to make the allotted three substitutes! And they played just three days after a grueling, 120-minute struggle in the DFB-Pokal.

Had Bayern lost to Bayer Leverkusen in the penalty shootout in midweek, they may not have been so sharp on Saturday. Yet that narrow win seems to have galvanized the team. Even without many key players, they win because they win.

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There's genuine confidence that has made the remaining squad (and it should be said, despite the many absentees, at least half the team on Saturday were of world-class status) feel perhaps unbeatable.

When they need goals, someone steps up and delivers. As he did a week ago against former club Dortmund, Lewandowski worked his magic against Frankfurt.

His opener was a thing of beauty that had his personal signature: A delicate flick to himself, a quick turn and a rifled volley into the back of the net. It's the kind of goal that is so typical of Lewandowski's unique style and ability, and it is simply indefensible.

Once the opener was scored, it was all too simple for Bayern. It's much easier to play with a lead, and they got their second and third to avoid any chance of a late rally.

Yet, it was still not a foregone conclusion that Bayern would win. Pep Guardiola used not so much of a defense as a one-man sweeper system in Dante receiving occasional help from compatriot Rafinha.

Reserve goalkeeper Pepe Reina started in goal as Manuel Neuer was rested. On the right flank, Mitchell Weiser was given a rare start.

Although top class when at their best, central midfielders Philipp Lahm and Thiago Alcantara both had only just returned from lengthy injury lay-offs. While Bayern took advantage of the absence of Bundesliga top scorer Alexander Meier, the possibility of their collapse and a potential meltdown was much higher than usual.

Yet, even in the absence of a classical defense, Bayern defended well as a collective when they had to and limited Frankfurt to just four shots, per the official Bundesliga live ticker.

Perhaps bolstered by the club's supposed "invincibility" that has become apparent in the last week or so, and perhaps by Lewandowski's outstanding opener, the likes of Weiser and Dante (who haven't looked very convincing at all this season) played quite well and ensured a clean sheet for the hosts.

Some clubs need a fully fit first team to achieve success on a regular basis. Bayern have now won three consecutive games with an increasingly depleted squad. Even without the players that appear to have made them great, they still manage greatness.

It's the result of a confidence and ethos that has become infectious and seems to be breathed in every player that puts on the Bayern shirt these days.

It's this extreme self-assuredness which makes them so strong.

@Mr_Bundesliga

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