A late moment of brilliance from Robert Lewandowski snatched a 2-1 win for Bayern Munich. The Pole had dragged the champions level after they were caught cold early on by Freiburg’s Janik Haberer.Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich
(Haberer 4′, Lewandowski 35′, 90′)
Robert Lewandowski started 2017 where he left off in 2016, scoring goals for Bayern and showing why he is the best in the business.
Bayern looked to be heading for a draw in Freiburg as the Bundesliga returned from its mid-season break but Lewandowski had other ideas, brilliantly chesting down a Franck Ribery cross, taking another crucial little touch and firing into the corner of the net in stoppage time.
“I don’t think I had total control over the ball. I just tried my best to control it and get a shot away,” said the modest striker.
It was tough on promoted Freiburg but underlined just why Bayern are league leaders, and indeed now winter champions. They have top class players who can turn a game with one instant of magical play.
Bayern might have been forgiven for thinking that the break in the Bundesliga season was to avoid the worst of Germany’s weather. Instead they returned to action in freezing temperatures in the Black Forest.
In a break with tradition, the last round of matches from the first half of the season is taking place this weekend rather than before the pause. Bayern had ended 2016 on a high after throttling nearest rivals RB Leipzig thanks in part to Lewandowski but they began their first four minutes of 2017 with somewhat of a whimper.
Freiburg’s Haberer defied his 22 years and showed all the experience of a Bundesliga veteran when he calmy slotted the early opener beyond Manuel Neuer.
The home side’s build-up to the goal was pretty but on an icy third of the pitch, they had a little bit of luck when the ball bounced off Mats Hummels before finding its way to Haberer.
The rest of the playing surface looked fine, making it hard for players to adjust when they crossed into the frosty patch, but it was no real excuse for Bayern early on at an atmospheric Schwarzwald Stadion.
Arturo Vidal and Arjen Robben backed out of a couple of challenges and initially looked very much still on holiday.
But gradually the champions, who lost on their last visit to Freiburg in 2015, edged their way into the game with Robben shooting over with their first chance.
Lewandowksi had barely figured before turning slowly in the box and allowing Mike Frantz to deflect his effort over the bar. The Poland striker appeared to be ever so slightly offside, something Freiburg would soon rue.
From the resulting Douglas Costa corner, Lewandowski was allowed to awkwardly volley the ball towards goal under little pressure and Freiburg goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow could only push the ball into the net when he really ought to have done better.
The leveller, Lewandowski’s 13th league goal of the campaign, was barely deserved for Bayern although in truth Freiburg had not threatened much either since taking the lead.
Costa had been preferred to Ribery on the Bayern wing and was busy, although without delivering any real end product and was switched for the Frenchman in the second period.
Thomas Müller was again anonymous in the number 10 role while supposed midfield general Vidal went off after 54 minutes clutching his side to be replaced by Joshua Kimmich.
Bayern were on top as the second half wore on and Robben had a good chance, cutting back onto his left in trademark style and forcing a smart save from Schwolow.
The game looked to be petering out in the last 20 minutes, due in part to the incessant cold, although Freiburg came close with Maximilian Philipp’s rasping drive just wide.
Out of nowhere Lewandowski then pounced to win it for Carlo Ancelotti’s side and stun Christian Streich’s eighth-placed team, who are always strong at home.
Ancelloti said: “The determination and character of my team pleased me today. That’s why we won the game in the end.”
The win means Bayern end the first half of the season as winter champions, sitting six points above RB Leipzig ahead of the second-placed side hosting Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.