The rivalry developing between Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim is beginning to take on unsavoury character.
By Nick Bidwell in Munich
Class war in the Bundesliga is alive and vocal. The aristocratic Bayern Munich and the nouveaux riches of Hoffenheim have not stopped sniping at each other since the latter gained promotion to the top flight a year ago, and they were back at each other’s throats in the wake of their 1-1 draw on the opening weekend of the season.
Home side Hoffenheim were already feeling hard done by after justice was not meted out to Bayern captain Mark van Bommel for shoulder-charging Isaac Vorash to the ground. But when Uli Hoeness, the general manager of the Bavarians, gave his version of events in a post-match interview – 1. Vorsah was play-acting. 2. Hoffenheim midfielder Sejad Salihovic made Van Bommel look like a choir boy – the hosts could not contain their rage.
“Mr Hoeness says some dumb things,“ fumed Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick, who has clashed so frequently with Hoeness, that the pair should seek a guidance counsellor. “It’s absurd to say nothing happened. Vorsah is a tree of a man, not one to fall easily.“ Rangnick’s president, the software billionaire Dietmar Hopp had some spam of his own for Hoeness: “You can’t take him seriously any more. He lives in a dream world.“
Hoffenheim should be too smart to fall into the war of the words trap. Hoeness loves nothing better to get under the skin of rivals and rather than taking the bait, the Hoffenheimer would be better-advised to see Hoeness’ tactics for what they really are – an acknowledgement that he regards the south-western side as a threat. Hoffenheim do not “know their place” and Bayern don’t like it.
In a later development which Hoffenheim no doubt will see as divine retribution, Van Bommel, that master agent provocateur, was later diagnosed with a broken toe and will be out for a month.
A futher talking point at the match was the Hoffenheim goal erroneously chalked off in the first half, the assistant-referee failing to spot Bayern keeper Michael Rensing scooping back a Josip Simunic header from well behind the line. Inevitably the incident sparked off a hot debate as to the merits of video adjudication, with Van Gaal very much to the fore of the pro-camera club. He remembers taking part in technology trials in the late 1980s during his time as the head of the Dutch coaches union and wondered why, two decades, FIFA still had not resolved the matter.
While Germany picked up three more World Cup qualifying points thanks to a 2-0 win in Baku against a limited Azerbaijan led by former Bundestrainer Berti Vogts, there were few positives to glean from the trip to the Caucasus apart from the goals: Bastian Schweinsteiger’s long-range screamer and a simple Miroslav Klose header into an unguarded net after a Mario Gomez shot had hit the bar.
Probably the only bright note of a mediocre evening’s work was the exceptional combination play on the right of ever-incisive midfielder Schweinsteiger and his Bayern teammate, full-back Philipp Lahm. Stationed for most of his career on the left-flank, the latter now plays for both club and country on his stronger right-side and looks even more dynamic and enterprising in his true habitat.
Although a fixture so early in the season was never going to produce the optimum, Germany coach Joachim Low must have been concerned to note the basic deficiencies of his side. They stood off the opposition far too much, their passing was slipshod and too many players appeared content to go through the motions. The jury has to be out on the international future of Stuttgart central defender Serdar Tasci – whom Wolfsburg striker Grafite severely embarassed in the first league game of 2009-10 – and up front Klose and Gomez are too similar in style to form an effective tandem.
All told, much for Joachim Low to ponder. A vital World Cup tie in Moscow is fast approaching (October 10) and he has far more questions than answers.
Interesting that Nationalmannschaft skipper Michael Ballack chose this very moment to press the case for the return to the squad of Schalke striker Kevin Kuranyi, who walked out on the team last year after not being picked for a game with Russia. Low vowed KK would never play for him again. Yet Ballack described Kuranyi as a “good guy” and called for him to be given another chance. “I hope the national team chapter is not over for him. He’s always worked for the team. “
Ballack knows full well that hell will freeze over before Low kisses and makes up with Kuranyi. So why make the plea? Cynics would say the Chelsea man was simply indulging in one of his favourite pastimes, that of irritating the boss.