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Bayern 3 VfL Bochum 1

Ten-man Reds come from behind for crucial win

A 21st German championship title came a step closer for Bayern on Sunday as the resolute Reds made light of losing a man with less than half an hour played to record a fully merited and potentially decisive win over Bochum.

Mimoun Azaouagh silenced the vast majority of the 69,000 full house at the Allianz Arena with a fourth-minute opener for the lively visitors, and matters threatened to get seriously out of hand for the home side when Mark van Bommel harshly received his marching orders for a second bookable offence before the half-hour was up.

But the dismissal galvanised the leaders and Lucio headed his side level after 31 minutes to make it all square at the interval. The ten men in red resolutely battered away at the increasingly defensive Bochum side and were finally rewarded fifteen minutes from time when Franck Ribery netted his seventh league goal of term from the spot after Marc Pfertzel’s blatant handball.

The leaders survived the odd minor scare at the end before Christian Lell netted with two minutes remaining to seal a deserved win, a crucial result which sends the leaders nine points clear of second-placed Schalke 04 with only seven matches remaining.

Bochum’s shock opener

Ottmar Hitzfeld made just one change to the side held 1-1 by Getafe in midweek, Christian Lell coming in at full-back for Marcell Jansen. That meant a familiar midfield featuring van Bommel and Ze Roberto in anchor roles supporting Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ribery on the flanks, with another start for Lukas Podolski alongside Luca Toni up front.

Azaouagh had already drawn a routine save from Oliver Kahn and Ribery flashed a drive across the face of goal before the VfL man took aim and smashed a 22-yarder beyond Kahn’s dive and into the top corner to stun the home crowd.

Bochum number one Jan Lastuvka neutralised Ribery’s free-kick, but the France star was guilty of a glaring miss on the quarter-hour, sliding his shot wide after Toni’s lay-off had left him with only the keeper to beat. Danny Fuchs whacked an 18-yard effort just past the upright, Zé Roberto was only thwarted by Marcel Maltritz’ last-ditch tackle, and Lucio rifled a volley just wide of the far post as the action continued at both ends.

Luico levels

But Bayern were reduced to ten men on 27 minutes when referee Michael Weiner, who had already warned and booked Van Bommel for fouls in quick succession, adjudged a harmless-looking challenge on Oliver Schröder as worthy of a second yellow card and sent the Dutchman from the field.

Far from being shocked, Munich reacted with fight and resolve, exemplified by Lucio’s explosive gestures of celebration on heading his side level from Schweinsteiger’s floated free-kick four minutes after the sending-off. Lastuvka caught Toni’s header and Ribery angled a drive narrowly wide as the men in red finished the half with much the better of the chances.

The goalmouth action eased off somewhat after the restart as the sides settled to their newly-briefed roles, Bayern pressing in search of the lead and Bochum looking to counter-attack. Benni Auer half-hit two efforts on Kahn’s goal and Schweinsteiger curled successive free-kicks over the bar, before Andi Ottl took over from the Germany midfielder and Miro Klose came on for the subdued Podolski.

Rousing rally

Toni somehow contrived to steer a free header wide of the target as Bayern gathered themselves for a final push in the last 20 minutes, Jose Sosa replacing Ze to beef up the attacking effort. The reward came with Pfertzel’s blatant handball in the box, allowing Ribery to stroke home an excellent spot-kick and hand his side the lead on 74 minutes.

Bayern set out to defend their precious advantage as Bochum boss Marcel Koller adjusted his team to include no fewer than four recognised strikers, but any lingering doubts were banished after 88 minutes when Klose’s sublime flick set up Lell for his first league goal of term to wrap up a courageous and deserved victory for the home side.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley