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Bayern 3 Hertha Berlin 2

Mandzu and Götze inspire winning fightback

Bayern beat Hertha Berlin 3-2 on Saturday as the treble winners came from behind to win at home for the second Bundesliga match in a row, but the fourth-placed visitors made a real contest of it in an entertaining encounter at the Allianz Arena. The heroes for Pep Guardiola’s side were the two Marios, Mandzukic and Götze, the first-half substitutes who scored the goals to seal FCB’s eighth league win of term.

The 71,000 full house saw Adrian Ramos hand the visitors a shock fourth-minute lead, and Änis Ben-Hatira lobbed against the bar before the Reds hit their stride. But it was all FCB after the first 20 minutes and Mandzukic struck a deserved equaliser on the half-hour. The Croat headed his side into a 51st-minute lead and fellow sub Götze opened his Bundesliga account in a red shirt three minutes later, but Ben-Hatira pulled one back before the hour and it was briefly a tight affair. However, Philipp Lahm and Co professionally closed out the game to earn an important victory.

The narrow win keeps the Reds top of the Bundesliga standings on 26 points from 10 matches, one clear of Dortmund and Leverkusen. Saturday’s result also means FCB have not lost in 35 Bundesliga matches, and can equal Hamburg’s long-standing league record if they avoid defeat in their next match, the trip to Hoffenheim a week from now.

Two new faces for FCB

Boss Guardiola made two changes to the team that crushed Viktoria Plzen 5-0 in the midweek Champions League encounter. Jerome Boateng returned from suspension in place of Diego Contento and Thomas Müller replaced Mandzukic, who joined the likes of Götze, Javi Martinez and Jan Kirchhoff in the dugout.

The league leaders started with Manuel Neuer in goal, marshalling a back four comprising Rafinha, Daniel van Buyten, Boateng and David Alaba. Philipp Lahm filled the holding position, with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on the wings, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos in central midfield, and Müller in the not unfamiliar false nine position.

Hertha boss Jos Luhukay, much respected for his achievement in leading the men from the capital to the second division title last term and fourth in the top flight after nine games of the current campaign, fielded a relatively defensive formation with former FCB keeper Thomas Kraft in goal.

Sub Mandzu levels the scores

The home side were taken completely by surprise just four minutes after referee Michael Weiner whistled play underway on a beautiful late autumn afternoon in the Bavarian capital, as Colombian hitman Ramos rose unmarked to head Per Skjelbred’s corner unstoppably past Neuer. FCB were still recovering when promoted Hertha came within inches of doubling their lead, Ben-Hatira delicately chipping onto Neuer’s crossbar, and the angle from the rebound proving only just too tight for Ramos.

Bayern finally settled to the task at hand and began moving the ball at speed. The Reds’ first clear-cut chance came on 19 minutes but Kraft beat away a swerving drive off the boot of Kroos, who unluckily injured himself in the act of shooting and was replaced by Götze after 24 minutes. Guardiola made another change just two minutes later when Robben signalled he had a problem, the Dutchman giving way to Mandzukic.

The big Croat soon made his presence felt and headed FCB level from Ribery’s teasing free-kick on the half-hour, although Kraft made life easier for his former club by misjudging the flight of the ball. Guadiola’s men had the bit between their teeth now and Hertha were forced onto the back foot, but Ribery and Lahm were crowded out, Alaba struck his free-kick into the wall, and Müller headed the Austrian’s cross over the bar.

Super subs seal it

After the restart, Schweinsteiger hurled himself to block a Tolga Cigerci drive as Hertha broke dangerously, but the Germany international was soon setting up Bayern’s second goal in the 51st minute with a curling free-kick into the danger zone, where Mandzukic rose brilliantly to head past Kraft a second time. It got even better for the home side three minutes later when Götze got in on the act, directing a cushioned header from Rafinha’s centre across Kraft and in at the far corner to make the score 3-1.

However, unlike many previous visiting teams, Hertha refused to throw in the towel and pulled a goal back after 58 minutes, Nico Schulz and Ramos combining to leave Ben-Hatira the simple task of finishing from close range. Guardiola sent on Javi Martinez for Müller to stiffen the midfield, but Ramos was still a handful and whistled a shot just too high. The entertainment continued with Schweinsteiger curling over the bar, although the action died down a little as the sides regrouped for the closing stages.

There was to be no final flurry, however, because Kraft saved Ribery’s tricky backheel and Schweinsteiger nodded wide, before the home team used all their skill and experience to see the victory through to the finish.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley