HANNOVER COMEBACK FALLS SHORT
MICHAEL ADUBATO - Saturday, March 24, 2012
Hannover 96's trip to Bavaria was all in vain as they fell short against Bayern Munich courtesy of goals on either side of the half by the hosts.

Hannover's captain and American international Steve Cherundolo had the job of keeping French international Franck Ribery quiet, and overall can be proud of his marking.

In the first minutes of the game he did so comfortably, getting several touches on the ball and denying the Frenchman any space.

Bayern earned their first corner after just three minutes, which while taken well by Arjen Robben, was comfortably cleared by the Hannover defense.

One minute later however, Ivica Olic broke through on the left and flew past Mario Eggimann. Although he did manage to get his shot off inside the box, the Hannover shop-stopper Ron-Robert Zieler had all day to watch it and scoop up the poor effort.

Shortly after, Cherundolo made his way up the right flank and picked out Lars Stindl at the top of the Bayern box. The midfielder turned and Danijel Pranjic caught him, bringing the German down hard for a free kick. Manuel Neuer had no problem clearing the effort.

Off the Neuer punch Ribery latched onto the ball and darted downfield. The former Marseille man found Robben to his right, and although in all kinds of space, the Chelsea reject fired over the cross bar.

Not long after, the feisty Frenchman was at it again as he nutmegged Cherundolo. The ball went through the Americans legs and the Frenchman bit the dust, rolling around in pain. Ribery received a free kick, while Cherundolo was given a yellow card.

The American commented on the incident after the game.

"There was very little body contact, I didn't touch him with my hand at all," said the Hannover captain. "That was him sort of playing with the fans and the crowd and the atmosphere and referee a bit."

Twenty minutes into the game Ribery was picked out by his captain Philipp Lahm, yet from eight yards out his misfired. This led to Hannover attacking down the other end and in a series of mishaps reminiscent to the Keystone Cops, the visitors were unable to tuck the ball past a floundering Neuer during a short melee at the left upright.

Two minutes later the Franco-American battle continued as Cherundolo kept the upper hand. Ribery gave his best effort to slip around the Illinois native yet again, but even with a handful of the #6 shirt, was unable to do so. Referee Guido Winkmann didn't blink and gave the American a free kick.

Hannover could have lit up the scoreboard with 23 minutes gone as Mohammed Abdellaoue found himself with the ball and a great opportunity on the edge of the 18 yard box. However the Norwegian striker, who has been capped 19 times, was unable to turn and get off a decent strike.

Christian Pander had a shout at goal shortly after but it went wide of the Bayern post. Neuer sent it down the other end where David Alaba latched on and sent in a teasing centering cross, but Zieler was the quicker on the day and beat the attacking Bavarians to the ball.

It took 36 minutes before the home fans had something to cheer about. Ribery picked out Robben from the left, who sent a cute little flick to Kroos just a few yards to his right. The German controlled with two touches, and when he saw Zieler off his line and charging forward, chipped over the keeper from ten yards out for the 1-0 lead.

Minutes before the intermission the fiery Frenchman tried his luck against Cherundolo again and this time the Yank stuck to him like dry spaghetti, keeping him on the outside where the winger could only put in a lame ball.

Lahm and Robben then found some flow on the ball, playing a give-and-go which ended with the Dutch international doing his best to chip the keeper. Zieler however left his feet and pulled it out of the clouds.

The half ended just after Kroos played the ball across the area Olic, who was free of any marking defender on the six yard box. Not only was he open but so was the Hannover goal; yet the Croatian tried a sweeping motion and ended up tripping himself instead of doubling the Bayern lead.

After the re-start, Hannover saw some possession inside the first ten minutes of the second half but the Bayern defense, especially Jerome Boateng, stood strong, turning away every run forward.

Ten minutes in Abdellaoue was played forwarded and dragged a couple of defenders along with him before Luiz Gustavo tried to get a piggy-back ride from the Norwegian and brought him to the ground. Sergio Pinto took the free kick but ended up putting it into the cheap seats.

Gomez came onto the field in the 61st minute, which was up to that point the highlight of an otherwise dull half. That was until the German with a Spanish father made an immediate impact when his shot from the left of the box rattled the near post and could have found its way across the line if it were not for Emanuel Pogatetz, who cleared it off the line.

Abdellaoue's last effort of the game came when Konstantin Rausch flew up the wing and sent a scorcher into the center of the box. The Oslo-native came full speed yet was unable to make contact as he slid just past the ball.

The hosts began to pull away from Hannover when Kroos danced along the edge of the box, picked out Gomez to his right and the substitute struck hard, sending the ball over land and into the inside far netting claiming the second "tor" of the game.

The game looked to be slipping out of reach of the "Hannovarians" until they pulled one back at the 74th minute as Didier Ya Konan scored with a Pele-style bicycle kick on the six-yard line, assisted by Mame Biram Diouf who found the Ivorian after Cherundolo picked out the Senegalese international.

Five minutes later it could have been all tied up but Lars Stindl's ball to Diouf was a not a perfect one, thus forcing him to stretch and send the shot over the crossbar.

Boateng, perhaps seeing that Hannover was struggling for the equalizer, helped them out a bit after Ya Konan hit Rausch on the attack. The big German defender stuck his foot out to deflect the cross and forced Neuer into making a classy save.

Thomas Müller, the Bavarians' final sub, was denied late in the game by the American defender and his fellow back liners when the German put a few moves on the Hannover keeper, who deserted his post between the sticks and was almost made to pay for his questionable decision.

The last action of the game came in the 90th minute when Ya Konan brought down Muller inches outside of the penalty area. Ribery set the ball down and fired hard and true. Zieler however punched hard and truer.

Following the game, Cherundolo did express some satisfaction with the way the team fought, however did admit a sense of disappointment at having come away empty-handed.

"I thought especially the second half was very good, we created a lot of chances and I don't think there are too many teams that will create chances against Bayern in Munich," he assessed. "So we're happy with the way we played, but of course we're not happy with the result."

"It's disappointing, but we played against a very good team today. We did a lot of things that we wanted to do well which gave us a chance, but at the end we came up a little short."

While doing his part to keep Ribery from inflicting too much damage, he recognized the difficult that a player of such quality poses to any opponent.

"He's always tough," the Hannover captain spoke of the Frenchman. "You're not able to stop him through fair means through 90 minutes. When you play against him you're always close to a yellow-red, which I was today, but it's just part of the game."

As half of the commonly denoted "Robbery" duo with Dutchman Robben, Ribery and his teammate have been known to pose a particular difficulty to both opposing teams and referees, not only due to their lightening fast attack, but also their penchant for dropping easily to the turf.

"Both of them go down pretty easily," Cherundolo chuckled. "The more yellow cards their defenders can get, the easier it is for them, so I understand why."

"The referees at this point, it's not the first time they've seen them, so they need to learn and know that they are going to fall easily. But it is what it is."

Next up in league play for Hannover will be next Sunday when they welcome Michael Bradley's former team, Borussia Monchengladbach to the AWD Arena. However they have to fly down to the Spanish capital midweek for the first leg of their Europa League clash against Atletico Madrid.