Soccer

Bayern beats Hertha Berlin to win Bundesliga crown

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The Canadian Press
3/25/2014 7:33:37 PM
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BERLIN -- Bayern Munich set a new milestone in its dominance of German football on Tuesday, beating Hertha Berlin 3-1 to wrap up the quickest Bundesliga title in 51 years of the league.

Goals from Toni Kroos, Mario Goetze and Franck Ribery sealed the unbeaten defending champions' 24th German title with seven games to spare, bettering the mark set in last year's record-breaking campaign by one game.

Adrian Ramos pulled one back from the penalty spot for Hertha, but there was to be no denying Pep Guardiola his first Bundesliga title in his first season as coach.

"We worked very hard for this title. When you win by 25 points people can think it's easy. But it's not easy, especially after the last season with three titles," the Spaniard said. "When you win 19 games one after the other, it speaks for the mentality of the team."

Bayern's 19th consecutive win, its 10th consecutive victory away from home, and its unbeaten run of 52 games are all Bundesliga records.

Bayern finished 25 points ahead of Borussia Dortmund last season and is even more dominant this campaign.

"We can see you, but we still need a telescope," Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp said.

Of 27 games so far this season, Bayern has won 25 and drawn the other two. It has also scored more goals (79) and conceded fewer (13) than any other side by a large margin.

"It's impressive," Klopp said. "You have to take your hat off to the consistent performances they deliver on the pitch and the drive they have."

Klopp's side had to settle for a 0-0 draw in the Ruhr derby with Schalke despite dominating. Dortmund remained one point ahead of Schalke but slipped 25 behind Bayern, the first side to win the Bundesliga as early as March.

"We're all very surprised as we expected it in February," Schalke general manager Horst Heldt joked. "But seriously, it was a magnificent season from Bayern."

Bayern's celebrations were reserved by usual standards, perhaps an indicator of how predictable the title race had become.

Players donned T-shirts with the number 24 referring to Bayern's championships on their backs, while Guardiola remained on the bench speaking with his wife on the mobile phone. There were none of the traditional "beer showers" and no trophy was presented.

"Congratulations to Bayern, especially to coach Pep Guardiola," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "He developed the team even further and clearly left his mark in terms of dominance and possession."

Many wondered how Guardiola could match the success enjoyed under predecessor Jupp Heynckes, who led Bayern to its first treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup victories last year.

Guardiola led Barcelona to 14 titles in four seasons in charge of the club where he played most of his career as a stylish defensive midfielder. But there was no guarantee he could replicate that success in Germany, a country he had only experienced as a visitor before.

Guardiola spoke German on his introduction to the media last June, two days before beginning work as Bayern coach.

Since then he has made the best ever start for a coach in the Bundesliga, where he is yet to taste defeat, while he has led Bayern to three titles including the latest. Bayern had already won the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup under his tenure.

"You always hope it goes well but I never expected it to go so well. The first four or five months were difficult but the individual talent saw us through," Guardiola said. "We'll celebrate this today and tomorrow."

With domestic domination appearing secure for years to come, Bayern will measure its success on a continental scale. The club's achievement of five European Cup or Champions League titles is eclipsed only by Real Madrid and AC Milan, with nine and seven, respectively.

Bayern aims to become the first side to defend the title since it was changed to the new format in 1992. It was handed a favourable draw for the quarterfinals in a Manchester United side still finding its feet since Alex Ferguson retired as coach.

The only cloud on the horizon has been Uli Hoeness' conviction for tax evasion. The former Bayern president, who is widely credited with building up this dominant team, is soon expected to begin his 3 1/2-year prison term.

"The championship is for Uli Hoeness, the most important person at the club," Guardiola said.

Kroos opened the scoring with a half-volley through Hertha goalkeeper Thomas Kraft's legs in the sixth minute, after Christoph Janker deflected Thomas Mueller's cross into the unmarked midfielder's path. It ensured Bayern's record of scoring in 64 successive Bundesliga games continued.

Poor defending from the home side allowed Goetze to score with a header from Bastian Schweinsteiger's cross in the 14th.

The intensity dropped in the second half until an apparent push from Rafinha on Ramos allowed the Colombian striker pull one back from the penalty spot in the 66th.

Ribery made sure of the result in the 79th with a fine finish after a determined run past a host of defenders by Goetze.

"It is indeed a bit cold outside in March but you can tell that we were up for it and wanted to win every game," Bayern and Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said. "It's very special to be German champions so early."

Football statisticians Opta said Bayern set a new Bundesliga record against Hertha with 1,078 passes, and that Bayern captain Philipp Lahm successfully completed all of his 133, also a record.

"After the last successful season we were very focused in our work and we're champions even earlier than last year. It's good and we're happy," Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer said.

Bayern's previous seven titles also came at matches away from home.

Also Tuesday, Wolfsburg won 3-1 at Werder Bremen and bottom side Eintracht Braunschweig grabbed a lifeline with 3-1 home victory over Mainz.

Bayern Munich celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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