Created on 14-12-2013 at 17:20 PM
Bayern bade farewell to their faithful fans until 2014 with the pre-Christmas gift of a 17th victory in 17 home Bundesliga fixtures this calendar year, as the Reds narrowly but deservedly beat northern rivals Hamburg 3-1 at the Allianz Arena on Saturday. Pep Guardiola’s side are now certain to top the table at the halfway point in the season and also extended their unbeaten run in the league to 41 matches.
The 71,000 full house saw the visitors put up a disciplined defensive performance, but the treble winners patiently probed for openings and took a deserved 42nd-minute lead through Mario Mandzukic. Mario Götze made it two within seven minutes of the restart, and although Pierre-Michel Lasogga pulled one back for Hamburg three minutes from time, sub Xherdan Shaqiri wrapped it up in stoppage time as the home side saw the result through to the end without undue discomfort.
The win means FCB are crowned autumn champions, the unofficial title awarded to the team top of the standings at the midpoint of the campaign, as the league leaders now have 44 points from 16 games and are seven clear of Leverkusen, who play Frankfurt on Sunday. The Bavarians return to Bundesliga action away to Gladbach on 24 January next year, but the immediate focus now is Tuesday’s Club World Cup semi-final in Morocco.
Franck and David rested
Guardiola made three changes to the side beaten by Manchester City in midweek. With an eye on next week’s prestigious tournament in Agadir and Marrakech, Franck Ribery and David Alaba dropped to the bench with Diego Contento and Rafinha coming into the team. At centre-back, ex-HSV man Daniel van Buyten stood in for the suspended Jerome Boateng.
The Reds lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal and Rafinha, Van Buyten, Dante and Contento in defence. Captain Philipp Lahm took the holding role, with Thiago, Toni Kroos, Mario Götze and Thomas Müller in midfield, and Mario Mandzukic at centre-forward.
Hamburg’s former Dortmund and Netherlands boss Bert van Marwijk built his team as expected around captain and fellow Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart, with ex-FCB defender Marcel Jansen patrolling the left flank.
Mandzu with the opener
In the first three minutes after referee Tobias Welz whistled play underway Van der Vaart and visiting keeper Jaroslav Drobny contrived to pick up yellow cards for petty infringements, but HSV otherwise kept it tight in the opening exchanges and restricted the champions to a Kroos range-finder, with Lasogga warming Neuer’s gloves for the first time at the other end.
Müller did have the ball in the net on the quarter-hour but from an offside position, as Munich upped the pressure and the chances began to come. Kroos fired off target, Götze’s close range effort was smothered, Lahm’s dribbler was deflected for a corner, and Mandzukic just failed to get a head on a Rafinha cross.
Van Marwijk’s side left very few gaps but still FCB came, Drobny grasping a Thiago shot only at the second attempt, Mandzukic gliding a header from a Kroos free-kick agonisingly wide of the far post, and Lahm lofting a shot into the crowd. The reward finally came with the opening goal after 42 minutes - and it was worth seeing too, Rafinha artistically volleying Kroos’ fabulous angled pass back into the centre for Mandzukic to force over the line.
Götze doubles the score
The first two chances after the restart fell to Lasogga, but Neuer comfortably held the first effort and the 22-year-old HSV man slid his second shot narrowly wide. Munich were shaken awake and poured forward, Götze doubling the lead on 52 minutes with a neat 12-yard volley on the turn after HSV failed to clear their lines and the alert Thiago picked out his team-mate with a clipped pass.
Neuer had to tip a deflected Jansen shot away for a corner as the visitors sought a way back, but the home side stood firm and brought on fresh legs after 64 minutes when Ribery replaced Götze. The Frenchman was soon in the thick of the action, setting up Müller for a volley, but Munich had shifted down a gear now and Lasogga again came close with a fizzing drive, before Neuer comfortably held a Van der Vaart header.
Shaqiri and young Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg replaced Müller and Kroos for the closing stages as Ribery and Shaqiri failed to make the most of half-chances, but HSV pulled a goal back after 87 minutes when Lasogga latched onto a Jansen cut-back to leave Neuer with no chance. However, Shaq calmly restored the two-goal lead on the break with the last kick of the game before Mr Welz blew for time on the final home match of a remarkable year.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley