Created on 05-11-2013 at 22:35 PM
A much-improved second-half display saw Bayern overcome a determined Viktoria Plzen side on Tuesday night and equal Barcelona’s record of nine straight Champions League wins dating from 2002-3. Mario Mandzukic scored the decisive goal as Pep Guardiola’s side made it four wins from four in Europe so far and sealed their place in the last sixteen with two games to spare.
The 11,500 capacity crowd at Struncovy stadium, the smallest ground in the group stage this season, saw the Czech champions put up a far more aggressive display than in the tame capitulation in Munich two weeks ago, and although Bayern saw more of the ball and Bastian Schweinsteiger hit a post after 16 minutes, the goalless half-time score was a reasonable reflection of the first-half play. The visitors were much livelier after the break with sub Mandzukic breaking the deadlock on 65 minutes, and despite the Czechs’ brave refusal to throw in the towel, the holders protected their precious lead through to the final whistle.
The record-equalling win sees Bayern safely through to the knockout stages with the maximum 12 points from four Group D matches, ensuring the holders can finish no lower than second in the section. FCB are joined in the Round of 16 by Manchester City, comfortable winners over CSKA Moscow in the parallel fixture and the Reds' only rivals for top spot in the group. The men from Munich return to Bundesliga action on Saturday in the Bavarian derby at home to FC Augsburg.
Four new faces for FCB
For the second game in a row, boss Guardiola made four changes to the team from the previous match, in this case Saturday’s 2-1 victory away to Hoffenheim. Diego Contento and Daniel van Buyten lined up at centre-back in place of Dante and Jerome Boateng, with Rafinha coming in at right-back, Philipp Lahm moving into defensive midfield, and Javi Martinez dropping to the bench. In the fourth change, Toni Kroos took over from Mandzukic, a tactical rather than a like-for like change.
Bayern lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Van Buyten, Contento and David Alaba in the back four, Lahm in the holding position, Franck Ribery, Schweinsteiger and Kroos in midfield, and Thomas Müller and Mario Götze swapping the false nine duties as required.
Home coach Pavel Vrba, who saw his team return to form with a 6-1 league victory over Jablonec at the weekend, made two changes to the team beaten 5-0 in the reverse fixture at the Allianz Arena a fortnight ago, with Michal Duris and striker Stanislav Tecl replacing Radim Reznik and flu victim David Limbersky.
Best chance for Bastian
After Spanish referee Antonio Lahoz whistled play underway, Duris tested Neuer early on as the home side went energetically about their business. But after the first ten minutes, Plzen keeper Matus Kozacik was in action three times to deny Müller and Alaba twice, although he was beaten when Schweinsteiger latched onto Götze’s angled cut-back, only for the midfielder’s first-time shot to come back off a post.
The home side threatened sporadically and ex-Hertha man Roman Hubnik headed over, but FCB were soon back on the attack with Ribery only just over-hitting a pass to the marauding Lahm, and Kozacik saving from Alaba and Kroos in quick succession.
But there was danger around Neuer’s goal in the run-up to half-time with ex-Augsburg hitman Milan Petrzela and Czech international Daniel Kolar both putting good chances wide of the target. The Czechs were breaking dangerously at times and Van Buyten made an important saving header to stifle the last opening before the break.
Mario on target
Guardiola obviously instructed his men to up the tempo in the second half, and the Bavarians duly responded with Cisovsky clearing off the line from Lahm four minutes after the restart, Van Buyten flicking a header inches wide of the far post from a Ribery corner, and the Frenchman seeing his shot scrambled clear.
The increasingly influential Ribery then missed a golden opportunity when clean through after 56 minutes as Kozacik stood his ground bravely, and referee Lahoz declined to whistle for a penalty when Rajtoral clearly felled the FCB winger in the box. Martinez and Mandzukic replaced Schweinsteiger and Müller on the hour, and the big Croat soon broke the deadlock with a trademark header back across Kozacik and in at the far corner from Lahm’s precise centre.
The heat went out of the match for a short time, but Viktoria commendably roused themselves 15 minutes from time and swarmed around Neuer’s goal, the keeper pushing aside Tecl’s skidding drive and Kolar firing across the face of goal. At the other end, Mandzukic headed into the side netting and Kozacik somehow denied Götze after the midfielder ran onto Martinez’ sublime through ball. In-form FCB reserve Mitch Weiser made his European debut in place of Götze for the closing stages, with Kozacik pushing aside a Lahm drive, before Mr Lahoz blew the final whistle on a tight but merited win.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley