Few gifts, plenty of work on 115th anniversary

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It all went well in the end on FC Bayern's 115th anniversary: a 75,000 full house at the Allianz Arena was treated to a remarkable crowd choreography extending the entire width of the south terrace, Bundesliga founder members FC Köln were the guests of honour, and Bayern ultimately beat the Rhineland outfit 4-1. The Reds gave themselves the best gift of all, namely the three points that mean FCB tighten their grip on top spot in the Bundesliga standings.

"I'm very happy. We've beaten the second-best away team in the league and scored four goals, which is very, very difficult against these opponents," commented Pep Guardiola after his team's 18th win of the season. "It was a good game with plenty of chances. Many happy returns to FC Bayern. I'm proud that I'm here and a part of this outstanding club."

'An odd match'

Many of the spectators had barely taken their seats before they were rising again to acknowledge the first goal, captain Bastian Schweinsteiger heading his side into a third-minute lead. Franck Ribéry doubled the advantage after 10 minutes, but there was to be no repeat of the 8-0 thrashing of Hamburger SV two weeks ago. FCB comfortably controlled the play but visiting keeper Timo Horn kept his side in it with a string of good saves.

"Going 2-0 up too quickly can be counter-productive," mused sporting director Matthias Sammer afterwards. With Munich failing to kill off their opponents once and for all, Köln grew in confidence as time went on and pulled a goal back through Anthony Ujah on the stroke of half-time. "It was an odd game today," reasoned Arjen Robben. "We started well, we raced into a 2-0 lead -- and it has to be all over at that point. But we went and conceded a goal at the worst possible time."

Praise for points-saver Neuer

Köln played courageously for a spell after the restart and might even have equalised, but the World's Best Keeper Manuel Neuer saved brilliantly from Ujah and speedy sub Marcel Risse. "We won today because Manu made two or three outstanding saves," acknowledged Guardiola. "We owe Manu a vote of thanks, he won it for us today," agreed Robben.

The on-form Dutchman finally broke the visitors' resistance with his 17th league goal of the campaign after 67 minutes, before Robert Lewandowski finished off a perfectly executed counter-attack on 75 minutes to complete the scoring. "The game shows that we never get any gifts and always have to give it everything," said Robben: "You have to work the whole time. Not just for 30 or 45 minutes, but for 90 minutes every time."

With all-or-nothing matches in the Champions League and DFB Cup on the horizon it will be vital for FCB to avoid the lapses that occurred against Köln. "I saw incidents that could have led to a rude awakening against other opponents," warned Sammer: "The knockout matches are coming and that's when you can't afford slip-ups." This Wednesday's domestic cup Round of 16 meeting with second division Eintracht Braunschweig provides the next opportunity for FCB to work on perfecting their game, although Robben finished with a positive summary: "I think we're making real progress. We're heading in the right direction."

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