A lackluster Bayern Munich avoided a potential upset Saturday by beating a strong Eintracht Frankfurt team 1-0 to retain the DFB Cup. The win puts Bayern on course for an historic league and cup double.
A jubiliant Bayern Munich celebrate after clinching the title
Considering their superiority in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich could have been expected to take Eintracht Frankfurt apart in the DFB Cup final in Berlin on Saturday evening. The best hopes of Frankfurt, the team 36 points behind the league leaders, at the kick-off could well have been to keep the goal tally to a respectable level.
As it was, however, the chasm between the two teams in terms of championship points counted for nothing as the final got underway. This was, after all, the conclusion of a knock-out competition and, by definition, anything could happen over the course of this one match. In a tournament where Eintracht Frankfurt have been one of the most consistent and dominant sides throughout the campaign, the league form guide lay by the sideline in tatters.
And so it was. Bayern, the favorites to begin their historic push to become the first ever German team to complete back-toback league and cup doubles, looked sluggish as Frankfurt began the game with relish. While the underdogs attacked crisply, Munich played sloppy balls and lost possession in such a nonchalant way that it seemed that the dull procession to another league title may have atrophied their desire.
Poor distribution and lethargy hamper Bayern's early efforts
The hard fought nature of the game restricted skillful play
Owen Hargreaves and Philipp Lahm looked like they might actually want to win the game while Michael Ballack's distribution suggested he may have been watching his new club Chelsea's own title celebrations ahead of the game instead of concentrating on the task in hand. Claudio Pizarro missed a good chance midway through the first half before Roy Makaay showed his worst profligacy by dragging a clear opportunity wide and heading past the post with the goal gaping.
At the other end, Frankfurt were capitalizing on the collapse of Bayern movement with great effect. Despite the loss of Marko Rehmer on the half hour, Frankfurt's midfield looked comfortable picking up the scraps and feeding the lively Ioannis Amanatidis and Alexander Meier up front. Both had good opportunities to test Oliver Kahn and linked up well to provide Frankfurt with their best chance just before the half-time whistle.
More urgency but little skill heralds second half
Both teams came out with an injection of pace for the second half but for all the increased industry, the quality was still lacking. Ballack was presented with the first chance of the half but headed tamely into Oko Nikolov's hands when a moment to look up may have paid dividends.
Bayern began to wake up when Makaay rifled in a classy overhead kick which Nikolov did well to touch onto the bar. Frankfurt responded with a sustained period of attacking pressure but lacked a cutting edge when it mattered.
Bayern began to sense that it may be their night and the Bavarians lay siege to Frankfurt's goal; Makaay again dragging a good chance across the goal from a good position. But Frankfurt were well prepared for such consistent attacking and while their resolute defending and clearing kept their opponents at bay, it did little for their own chances of stealing the game on the break.
Pizarro heads Bayern in front after sustained pressure
The relentless probing finally paid off for Bayern with 30 minutes to go when Ze Roberto floated over a corner to the far post where Pizarro was lurking. Frankfurt's Patrick Ochs missed his header and the Peruvian hit-man stooped to give Bayern the lead.
Rather than pressing home their advnatage Bayern relaxed and were lucky not to be on equal terms again. Benny Köhler tangled on the edge of the arae with Valerien Ismael and went to ground holding his head. Frankfurt cried for a penalty but the foul -- not given -- was outside the box. Chaos ensued and Frankfurt coach Friedhelm Funkel was sent to the stands for venting his spleen.
The break was enough for Bayern to compose themselves again and as the clock ticked down, they began to take control with Frankfurt fired up and chasing the game. Makaay finally had the ball in the net with 15 minutes to go but he was clearly offside and what would have been the killer second goal was discounted.
Cup holders almost made to pay for casual play
Bayern had a number of chances to finish the match off but decided to play a dangerous game of possession on a couple of occasions when they out-numbered the back-tracking defenders. It nearly back fired when Frankfurt threw everyone forward in the final minutes and Kahn had to save a goal bound rocket from Amanatidis with two minutes to go.
The cup holders had weathered the storm and still had time to mount their own attacks in the final seconds but seemed more concerned with running the clock down than getting a second goal. The final whistle sounded and Bayern's double dream lived on amid the celebrations. None celebrated more than Oli Kahn -- the first player to win five DFB Cup winners medals while Frankfurt trudged off to debate the missed opportunities which punctuated their brave challenge.
Bayern could complete the historic double "Double" on Wednesday night when they entertain Stuttgart, if Hamburg slip up against second-from-bottom club Cologne the night before.