Bayern Munich break through against Borussia Dortmund, knock rivals out of German Cup

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The gap between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund was huge everywhere but the scoreboard, but even there, Arjen Robben separated the two sides.

A curling first half shot from near the arc in today’s German Cup quarterfinal gave FCB a 1-0 win over the holders, Bayern’s first competitive victory over BVB since Feb. 2010. The win also have Bayern redemption for May’s 5-2 defeat in the previous Pokal final, a match that saw the Bavarians embarrassed by Germany’s new rulers

That reign is clearly over. Having finally fallen in a head-to-head meeting with Bayern, Borussia Dortmund have no more claims to the throne. If a 17-point lead in the Bundesliga wasn’t convincing enough, the chasm between the two sides at the Allianz confirmed. Bayern is again the standard in German soccer.

And ultimately, it was a fortunate result for Dortmund, who were dominated from the get-go. As Bayern’s post-match celebrations confirmed, their mission was one of redemption, with their early intensity giving them an edge they never relinquished. The resulting pressure created the only goal, with Phillip Lahm’s high efforts and a Felipe Santana error leading to the ball that found Robben.

Germany’s defending champions had only one shot on goal. Bayern had nine. That they also controlled 57 percent of the possession was no surprise, given how Jurgen Klopp’s come to set up against Bayern, but with Dortmund unable to generate chances on the counter, this was one of the more lopsided 1-0 results you’ll see between top teams.

The disparity in play forced you to pause and consider the turnaround. Last year, the Bavarians had no answer for BVB. Now they’re in another world, remarkable better than a rival that won a Champions League group that featured Real Madrid.

Bayern’s clearly the best team in the world right now, but for a club that’s lost two of the last three Champions League finals, the question is whether they can maintain this form over the next three-and-a-half months. They have to carry this momentum to May’s Champions League final at Wembley. Given this is the level they’ve played at since August, it’s hard to see them collapsing.

The only question in my mind is whether Jupp Heynckes can get this team ready for the winner-takes-all match that awaits them in May. They stumbled last year and were upset at home by Chelsea. Will whatever befell them last year keep them from aiming this year’s title?

Here’s the day’s only goal, Arjen Robben beating Roman Weidenfeller to knock Borussia Dortmund out of the German Cup.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.