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Roller-coaster ride to runners-up spot

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Roller-coaster ride to runners-up spot

Postby FCBayernNews » Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:30 pm

As 2009 draws to a close, fcbayern.de looks back on "a very eventful year with highs and lows," as FCB chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge described it in his seasonal message to members and fans. In the first part of our review of the calendar year, we examine the second half of the 2008-9 season, at the end of which Munich sealed the runners-up spot in the Bundesliga.

Bayern hit the ground running coming out of the winter break. Following a ten-day training camp in Dubai and five wins out of five in their warm-up matches, Jürgen Klinsmann's side thrashed VfB Stuttgart 5-1 in the DFB Cup. "Our rivals have seen the form we're in. If we keep it up, it'll be difficult for the others," Uli Hoeneß predicted.

Patchy form

However, FCB fell to a sobering defeat just three days later. In a thrilling encounter, the men in red lost 1-0 to Hamburger SV in the Bundesliga restart match, a first defeat in 17 matches, and one which cost Klinsmann's team top spot in the standings. FCB had started the second half of the campaign level on points with leaders Hoffenheim, but now slipped to fourth.

The first batch of league games after the winter break were a sign of FCB's inconsistent form at the time. Munich beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 at home but lost their next two games 2-1, away to Hertha Berlin and at home to FC Köln, before a goalless draw on the road to Werder Bremen. The first irreversible setback came in early March, as FCB were knocked out of the DFB Cup 4-2 by an outstanding Leverkusen side.

New European record

"That's it for the cup, so we have to focus on the Bundesliga and the Champions League," commented Klinsmann, whose team immediately found form in pursuit of the two remaining trophies. In the last sixteen of Europe's elite competition, Bayern demolished Portuguese representatives Sporting Lisbon in two one-sided encounters, winning 5-0 in Lisbon and charging to a 7-1 triumph at home. Twelve goals in two matches set a new record for the Champions League knockout stages.

Bayern also returned to winning ways in the domestic league, beating Hannover 5-1, Bochum 3-0, and Karlsruhe 1-0. With 25 games played, FCB were second in the table by the end of March, just a point off surprise leaders Hertha. "We're delighted we're right up there again, and we won't leave anyone in peace now. We'll pile on the pressure as necessary," Klinsmann declared.

Double defeat

However, the coach's hopes were to be dashed, as Bayern emerged from a two-week international break in April with two heavy defeats. Munich fell 5-1 away to eventual champions VfL Wolfsburg, and crashed 4-0 to Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals just four days later. "There's no question about it: that was an ignominious defeat," Rummenigge acknowledged.

Bayern staged a minor recovery with a 4-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt, a 1-1 draw in the return against Barcelona, and a 1-0 win away to Arminia Bielefeld, but with their Champions League ambitions over, the situation in the Bundesliga meant a serious risk of a season without silverware. A catastrophic 1-0 defeat at home to Schalke on Matchday 29 forced the board to act.

Heynckes takes charge

On 27 April, Bayern parted company with Klinsmann and his assistants Martin Vasquez and Nick Theslof. "We've lost all the really important games - in Hamburg, Berlin and Wolfsburg, against Schalke, and in the cup against Leverkusen. We have to stop this trend. We've acted because we're afraid of missing our targets," explained Hoeneß. Former FCB coach Jupp Heynckes took the reins for the last five games of the season, assisted by reserve boss Hermann Gerland.

The 63-year-old Heynckes soon repaired the team's evident mental fragility and led his new charges to victory against Borussia Mönchengladbach (2-1), Cottbus (3-1) and Leverkusen (3-0). With two games to go, FCB were level on points with leaders Wolfsburg, but lost ground in a 2-2 draw away to Hoffenheim and found themselves having to fend off Stuttgart, who had now caught up with the second-placed Bavarians.

Showdown with Stuttgart

VfB visited Munich in a classic last-day showdown with a number of possible outcomes for FCB, ranging from the title (in the event of Wolfsburg losing at home to Bremen) to a worst-case scenario of fourth place and failure to make the Champions League. "None of us wants to play in the UEFA Cup," insisted Philipp Lahm. Bayern ultimately beat Stuttgart 2-1, and with Wolfsburg thrashing Bremen 5-1 to claim the title, FCB qualified directly for the Champions League as runners-up.

"We're utterly grateful to him for taking us to second place," Hoeneß stated after the Heynckes' intermezzo produced 13 out of a possible 15 points. "If he'd been in charge the whole season, we'd have won the league," agreed Lahm. "Second is okay, but we'll do whatever it takes to be first next season. We want trophies," declared Rummenigge, closing a roller-coaster campaign with a clarion call to his own club - and to their rivals.
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