Bremen, Germany | AFP | Niko Kovac says the belief is starting to return to Bayern Munich after they claimed a second win this week to climb to third in the Bundesliga table after a 2-1 victory at Werder Bremen.
Bayern built on their 5-1 midweek thrashing of Benfica in the Champions League with Serge Gnabry scoring twice in Bremen to end a run of woeful results after going the whole of November without a league win.
Bayern lag nine points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund and will drop back to fifth if Eintracht Frankfurt earn a fifth straight win at home to Wolfsburg on Sunday and RB Leipzig beat second-placed Moenchengladbach.
“The team believes in itself again and is firmly convinced that we can do it,” said Bayern head coach Kovac when asked if they can close the huge gap behind Dortmund.
“When everyone’s fit and playing for each other, in defence and attack, we are hard to play against and hard to beat.”
The last time Bayern were so far behind in the table was in 2010/11 and their bid for a seventh straight Bundesliga crown is in danger after only their third win in their last nine league games.
– Subdued celebrations –
Moreover, there is still huge room for improvement in defence as Bremen’s Japan striker Yuya Osako out-leapt Jerome Boateng to equalise before the half-time break before Gnabry’s second-half winner.
“We defended too passively, especially in the 10 minutes after we took the lead,” admitted Kovac.
“We have talked about things again and again, but sometimes talking isn’t enough and you have to deal with things directly – we did that today.”
Gnabry, 23, has had a hand in Bayern’s goals in the last three games and was pleased with his brace, but kept the celebrations muted against his ex-club Bremen, who he joined from Arsenal in 2016.
“We know about the situation in the table – every game is important to get the three points and reduce the gap,” said the Germany winger.
“The victories ensure a good mood and gives us confidence for our next game (against Nuremberg next Saturday).
“We didn’t give much away – that gives us confidence.
“I enjoyed my goals, but I didn’t cheer much out of respect as I had a great time here in Bremen,” he added.
Franck Ribery, 35, limped off with a leg injury in the first half, but there was good news for Kovac as Kingsley Coman made his first appearance after an ankle injury, while Thiago Alcantara also returned after a month sidelined.
Kovac also said he was pleased with Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich, who had a hand in both goals, as the pair are forging an impressive midfield partnership.
– Alcacer equals record –
Meanwhile, Alcacer’s phenomenal scoring run continues for Dortmund as he netted his 10th goal of the season to become the league’s top scorer in their 2-0 home win over Freiburg.
The Spaniard has already now equalled the Bundesliga record for most goals by a substitute in a season with his ninth goal off the bench in his eighth league game.
The ex-Barcelona forward is averaging a goal for Dortmund every 28 minutes.
Ex-Germany defender Christoph Metzelder is convinced his mere presence off the bench makes teams nervous.
“This has it’s own psychology, for his own team and the opposition,” said Metzelder, a Sky pundit.
“He trots on the field with 20 minutes to go and everyone knows something is going to happen.”
Sure enough, after Marco Reus converted a first-half penalty, Alcacer came on for the last 20 minutes at Signal Iduna Park and scored as a replacement for the third game in a row.
The Spain international tapped home a minute in added time after brilliant play by Jadon Sancho and Lukasz Piszczek as Dortmund were rewarded for breaking down Freiburg’s dogged defence.