Make me your Homepage
left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Pep on track for record trek to title

Updated: 2014-03-03 07:46
By Agence France-Presse in Berlin ( China Daily)

Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola is set to scoop his first German title in record time later this month after the Bundesliga holder opened a 20-point lead on Saturday.

Arjen Robben notched a hat-trick as Bayern romped to a 5-1 home win over Schalke 04 to equal its own league record of 15 straight victories and extend its record unbeaten run to 48 Bundesliga matches.

Having dropped just four points all season, Guardiola's squad has now claimed 65 points after 23 games, setting another league record.

 Pep on track for record trek to title

Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben (left) and teammate Thiago Alcantara celebrate after their team's fourth goal in a 5-1 Bundesliga triumph over Schalke 04 in Munich on Saturday. Christof Stache / Agence France-Presse

Bayern won last season's treble of league, cup and Champions League titles.

It had wrapped up the Bundesliga with a record six games to spare and Guardiola's side is on course to at least equal that.

Having won 14 titles in four years as Barcelona coach before standing down in 2012, Guardiola could have his first Bundesliga title confirmed by the end of March in his first season in charge.

"In the break we talked about respect for the opponent and about how we needed to keep serious," said Guardiola, ever the perfectionist as his team led 4-0 at halftime at Munich's Allianz Arena.

"Congratulations to the team. With every game we move a little closer to defending the league title," he said.

Bayern has 11 league games left.

Guardiola has already won two titles at Munich having scooped the UEFA Super Cup by beating Chelsea in Prague last August, then lifting the Club World Cup in Morocco in December.

On Friday, Guardiola told reporters "don't ask me about the title!" in broken German, but Bayern will wrap up its 24th German league title when it hosts Hoffenheim at home on March 29 if it maintains its massive lead.

Germany winger Thomas Mueller was the first from the Bayern camp to admit the title race is over, telling Munich newspaper TZ: "I don't think anyone is reckoning that we will lose six of our last remaining matches".

Bayern was never troubled by Schalke, which lost 6-1 at home to Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid on Wednesday in the Champions League, and was 4-0 down inside half an hour on Saturday.

With three minutes gone, left back David Alaba netted a free kick, then Robben scored on either side of Mario Mandzukic's header from a superb Alaba cross.

Schalke was gifted a goal when Jefferson Farfan's corner was turned into his own net by Munich right back Rafinha, in for captain Philipp Lahm, with 25 minutes left - it was only the 10th goal Bayern has conceded all season.

To compound Schalke's misery, Greece center back Kyriakos Papadopoulos was shown a straight red for bringing down Mandzukic in the area.

His foul allowed Robben to wrap up his hat-trick with a 77th-minute penalty.

"My son will enjoy having the match ball; my kids are my biggest fans," said Dutch winger and father of three Robben.

"We played with so much aggression and tempo, we really put our foot down.

"The title is getting closer, we played with so much passion, which we need for the big games, especially in the Champions League."

Schalke was left to rue what coach Jens Keller referred to as a "catastrophic performance because we still had the Real defeat in our system."

Schalke captain Benedikt Hoewedes was again left to apologize to the Royal Blues' fans.

"You can't get much worse than that," fumed Hoewedes, who had a miserable 26th birthday. That was highly embarrassing and we need to apologize to our fans."

(China Daily 03/03/2014 page23)