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Hoffenheim 1 Bayern 2

Ninth win, lead regained, record equalled

Bayern’s 2-1 victory away to TSG Hoffenheim on Saturday was significant in two main respects, as the ninth win of the current campaign sends the champions back to the top of the Bundesliga and also means Pep Guardiola’s side have equalled Hamburg’s 30-year-old league record of 36 consecutive matches without defeat.

The 30,150 full house at Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena in Sinsheim saw the visitors dominate the early exchanges but fall behind for the third league game in a row when young Niklas Süle opened the scoring on 34 minutes. Mario Mandzukic equalised just five minutes later, but it took until a quarter of an hour from time before Thomas Müller forced the ball over the line from close range to hand his side a deserved lead and ultimately the points.

The win means the Reds recover first place in the Bundesliga, temporarily lost to Dortmund overnight, as FCB now have 29 points from 11 games and lie a point ahead of BVB and four clear of Bayer Leverkusen. The focus now turns to Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Viktoria Plzen, before the Bavarians return to Bundesliga action a week from now in the Bavarian derby at home to FC Augsburg.

Four new faces for FCB

Boss Guardiola made four changes to the team from last weekend’s tight 3-2 victory over Hertha Berlin. Mario Götze, Javi Martinez, Mandzukic and fit-again Dante came in for Rafinha and Daniel van Buyten, and for the men who were substituted in the first half-hour last week with minor injuries, Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben. It added up to one important positional switch for Bayern, with Philipp Lahm reverting to right-back and Martinez taking over the holding duties.

The line-up comprised Manuel Neuer in goal, with Lahm, Dante, Jerome Boateng and David Alaba in defence, Martinez in the anchor role, Franck Ribery and Thomas Müller out wide, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Götze in central midfield, and Mandzukic up front.

Hoffenheim boss Markus Gisdol presides over the side lying eighth in the standings and who have proved the most entertaining team to watch this season: they are the league’s second-highest scorers but are joint bottom in terms of goals conceded. It was also a day of reunions for FCB men Alaba and Tom Starke, both former TSG 1899 players in the past.

FCB dominate, teams trade goals

In the first incident after referee Tobias Welz whistled play underway, Müller had the wind knocked out of him in a collision with home keeper Koen Casteels, but the striker soon recovered after treatment. The first chance fell to the overlapping Lahm, but the angle was tight and Casteels stood his ground to block. The keeper then beat out a Müller drive as the visitors upped the tempo, but Mandzukic diverted Alaba’s fine cut-back wide of the far post, Götze had a big shout for a penalty turned down, and Schweinsteiger lofted a 22nd-minute shot over the bar.

The treble winners maintained the pressure, but Martinez and Müller got in each other’s way from Schweinsteiger’s free-kick, Müller’s shot on the turn flew high, and Casteels gathered Ribery’s skidding shot at the second attempt. But on 34 minutes, the home side took a shock lead with their first chance when 18-year-old Süle turned in the loose ball after Neuer and Co failed to deal adequately with a Kai Herdling corner.

That prompted a sudden burst from the home side, Kevin Volland twice brining good saves from Neuer, but the visitors soon recovered their composure and were level on 39 minutes, albeit with a touch of good fortune when Mandzukic deflected Ribery’s relatively tame free-kick unstoppably past the wrong-footed Casteels. There were half-chances at both ends before the break but the teams turned round with the score level at 1-1.

Müller makes the breakthrough

For the second half, Guardiola initially switched things around with Lahm moving into midfield, Martinez to centre-back and Boateng to right-back, although the formation remained fluid as the game unfolded. Dante landed a header on the roof of the net and Volland volleyed over the bar, but Gisdol’s men had the measure of their opponents for a long spell and Guardiola made a change on 64 minutes, replacing Mandzukic with Kroos.

The visitors began to look livelier and Casteels blocked from Ribery, but Hoffenheim were dangerous on the break and Neuer saved at full stretch from the impressive Volland. FCB hit back with Ribery lashing a drive just wide of the back post, Müller heading a good chance over the bar after outjumping TSG captain Andreas Beck, and Casteels plucked a dangerous Götze cross out of the air.

But the champions took the lead 15 minutes from time when Müller crashed home from close range after Martinez’ crucial challenge and Ribery’s unselfish pass, a situation arising when Beck initially stopped the wriggling Götze only to make a hash of his clearance. Rafinha replaced Götze for the last ten minutes, and although Müller squandered a huge chance to wrap it up with five minutes left only to head wide from Schweinsteiger’s cross, and the midfielder himself was later denied by Casteels, the Reds never looked in danger of dropping the points.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley