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SWINDON 1 BAYERN II 1: Town's display goes down a storm
THE game may not have matched its epic surroundings, but this was a draw by which all at Swindon Town can be hugely encouraged.
More than a kilometre above sea level, set against the stunning Dolomite skyline and with the rumble of thunder and the occasional flash of lightning edging ever closer as the minutes ticked by, the Aldano ground provided an impressive arena that perhaps did not get what it deserved from a footballing point of view, as two well organised sides contested an even stalemate.
There were moments where Swindon sparked – Paul Benson fired the tourists into the lead after three minutes and Andy Williams struck the woodwork just before the break – but by and large the Robins did a good job of stifling the Bayern Munich II midfield, building from the back and generally holding their own against an opposition evidently brimming with technical quality.
Chances were few and far between in the first period, barring the opportunities for Benson and Williams and Alessandro Schopf’s equaliser for Bayern, and a combination of pre-season cobwebs and the odd misplaced pass meant the action on the pitch failed to complement the spectacle off it.
However, Town looked composed for the most part on the ball and, with six new signings making up more than half of the starting XI, controlled periods of possession with what at times seemed to be a bit of a swagger.
After the break, with manager Paolo Di Canio again making 10 changes to his original side, those players more accustomed to sharing a pitch found a rhythm and went close through Raffa De Vita, James Collins and Aden Flint.
Bayern had their chances, and could have ended the game well on top but for more brilliance from Wes Foderingham – but a draw was most certainly the fairest of results.
Despite the overwhelming bias in favour of the German side – made evident by a pre-match DJ playing his set dressed in full Munchen regalia and a good 400 Bayern fans chanting pitchside – Town made a strong start and went ahead with their first attack of any significance.
Matt Ritchie won possession on the right and slipped in Benson, who showed a familiar calmness to slot the ball beyond Maximilian Riedmuller in the Munich goal.
Bayern almost found themselves level 15 minutes later, but Foderingham found the reach to get one of his massive paws to Bastian Fischer’s 10-yard snapshot.
It was a tremendous save, and deserved more than to keep Swindon ahead for only seven more minutes.
However, Foderingham could do little about the Munich leveller.
A cross from the right evaded both Town centre-backs and, when the backtracking Ritchie fluffed his clearance and Bayern winger Dale Jennings made a similar mess of his swipe at goal, the ricochet fell kindly for Schopf, who greedily gulped up the chance.
After a 10-minute flux, where neither side could maintain possession long enough to prise the other open, Swindon went within inches of regaining the advantage through Williams.
Leaping onto Benson’s pass, the former Yeovil striker beat Riedmuller only to see his shot spin back off the German keeper’s right-hand post, across goal, past his desperate lunge and to safety.
It was the final chance of a somewhat barren 45 minutes.
As the air cooled and the clouds rolled ominously in for the start of the second half, Di Canio made wholesale changes – leaving only Foderingham on the pitch.
A storm was building in the skies above Andalo, and below them Town began to rain attempts down on the Bayern goal.
De Vita, again hugely impressive on the right, bounced through three tackles to test Riedmuller, Collins headed over when well set and Rooney also fluffed his lines at the back post as the Wiltshire outfit threatened.
With lightning flashing in the background, the match almost endured an ugly flashpoint midway through the second period when Rooney and Niklas Horn scrapped on the touchline.
But, unlike the weather, calm was quickly restored and the handbags were returned to their respective lockers.
After soaking up the pressure, Bayern twice should have stolen the win in the final 20 minutes.
On each occasion, striker Marius Duhnke was the guilty party. First the forward was denied by another fine stop from Foderingham before failing to get his shot away when played through one on one with the Town stopper.
It would have been unfair on Swindon had Dunkhe taken either chance, as it would have been on Bayern had Simon Ferry’s dipping volley not been padded over the crossbar by Riedmuller late on.
And as the monsoon started almost bang on the final whistle, both sides’ outlook could be brightened by the result.
“The result is not always important, I want to see my team play well,” said Di Canio afterwards. “Today was important to see the improvement from the new players.
“I’m happy because at the end of the day you look at the result, against a good side who did not only bring their young players but also their experienced players.
“It was a good game.”