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VfB Stuttgart 0 Bayern 2

Dominant Reds seal League Cup final berth

Bayern turned in another impressive display to book a date with Schalke in Saturday’s League Cup final, after an early goal from Franck Ribery and a second half Sandro Wagner effort saw off Bundesliga champions Stuttgart on Wednesday evening.

A 45,500 crowd at the Gottlieb Daimler stadium watched Munich star signing Ribery net a 25-yard belter after just eight minutes, before Hamit Altintop was only denied midway through the half by the width of a post.

Bayern continued where they left off against Bremen last weekend as reserve hitman Wagner, a last-minute replacement for the unfit Miroslav Klose, finished off a glorious passing move involving Ribery and fellow newcomer Marcell Jansen.

The men in red never seriously looked like surrendering their lead after that and now travel to Leipzig on Saturday for the showdown with long-time rivals Schalke.

Klose’s late withdrawal

Ottmar Hitzfeld made three changes to the side which beat Werder 4-1. Klose succumbed to a niggling muscle strain, allowing Wagner another chance up front, with Daniel van Buyten taking over from Martin Demichelis at centre-half. Finally, Michael Rensing seized the chance for some match practice in place of club captain Oliver Kahn.

Hitzfeld’s counterpart Armin Veh was without ten potential first-team regulars, including Germany starlet Mario Gomez, Mexican aces Osorio and Pardo, and Romanian newcomer Ciprian Marica, who only inked his new contract on the day of the game.

Ribery shocks Schäfer

Despite their depleted line-up, VfB began brightly and forced the visitors onto the back foot, but the Reds took the lead with their first serious attacking foray. A fine passing move left Ribery clear to take aim from 25 yards with his left peg, catching new Stuttgart keeper Rapahel Schäfer cold after eight minutes.

Bayern now eased into control and held possession adroitly, before launching a series of dangerous attacking raids. Schäfer was much the busier of the keepers in the first period, twice getting a hand to Altintop long-range efforts, the second of which ultimately rebounded into play off the upright.

Untroubled Rensing

Bayern might have doubled their advantage in the 29th minute when Jansen arrowed a diagonal ball into the box, but Wagner’s toe-poke lacked accuracy and Schäfer parried. The half now meandered to a close after 45 minutes in which Rensing made no save worthy of note.

The opening exchanges of the second half were a carbon copy of the first, the Swabians settling the quicker of the sides and this time creating a goalscoring opportunity as Cacau’s 20-yard drive on 50 minutes forced Rensing into a decent save. However, Munich again held their nerve and resumed control of the encounter.

Wagner hits the target

Schweinsteiger could have wrapped it up after 52 minutes but somehow contrived to miss from a couple of metres after determined build-up play from Jansen. Thirteen further minutes passed before the 19-year-old Wagner coolly finished off a fine move instigated by Ribery and Jansen.

The pace dropped now as Bayern protected their advantage through to the end of the match. Wagner was unlucky not to make it three when his angled drive crashed against the bar after 82 minutes, before substitute Andreas Ottl’s drive whistled inches over the crossbar three minutes from time.

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