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Bayern 4 Freiburg 0

Dominant Reds primed for Arsenal

An unfamiliar Bayern team produced a familiar result on Saturday as the Reds beat SC Freiburg 4-0 and stretched their lead at the top of the Bundesliga to 16 points for now. A 46th straight league game without defeat was a good warm-up for the midweek Champions League trip to North London giants Arsenal, although the line-up at the Emirates Stadium is likely to be rather different to the team that did a smoothly efficient job on Saturday’s struggling visitors.

The 71,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Pep Guardiola’s reshuffled team hit their stride after the first quarter of an hour and strike three first-half goals through Dante and a Xherdan Shaqiri brace, although Thomas Müller actually applied the final touch to the Swiss starlet’s second. FCB were content to dominate the ball and let their opponents do the chasing in the second half, Claudio Pizarro adding a fine fourth two minute from time as the leaders closed out the game with practiced ease.

A 19th win from 21 fixtures sees Bayern up to 59 points and extends the yawning gap back to Leverkusen in second to 16 points, although Bayer can claw back ground at home to Schalke in the evening. With the job done in the domestic league, the Bavarians turn their full attention to the biggest game of the year so far, Wednesday’s first leg clash with the Gunners.

Pep rotates

With one eye on the big European showdown, Guardiola rotated half his team compared to the midweek cup tie against Hamburg. Diego Contento, Javi Martinez, Müller, Pizarro and Shaqiri came in for David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Mario Götze, Thiago and Mario Mandzukic, the first four taking seats on the bench and Mandzu serving out a one-match ban.

The home line-up featured Manuel Neuer in goal, with Rafinha, Martinez, Dante and Contento in defence, captain Philipp Lahm and Toni Kroos in holding roles, Shaqiri, Müller and Arjen Robben in attacking midfield, and Pizarro making a second league start of term at centre-forward.

Three first-half goals

After referee Guido Winkmann whistled proceedings underway on a spring-like afternoon in Munich, the visitors gave as good as they got for the first quarter of an hour and the home team needed a short time to gel, so the only early chance was a blocked Shaq shot, with Jonathan Schmid and Matthias Ginter trying their luck at the other end. A glorious Kroos pass to release Robben sparked the champions into life and led indirectly to the 19th-minute opener: Robben was fouled, the free-kick found its way to Contento, and the stand-in left-back handed Dante the chance to steer a firm header past SCF keeper Oliver Baumann from 12 yards out.

Guardiola’s men had the game under control now but Rafinha aimed too high and Pizarro was crowded out in the six-yard box. Bayern doubled their lead on 34 minutes when Pizarro back-heeled into the path of the charging Shaqiri, who rode Immanuel Höhn’s challenge, sprinted down the left channel and fired into the net off Oliver Sorg’s thigh.

Robben then thrilled the crowd with a slaloming burst into the box, but unfortunately the ball bobbled and the Dutchman’s shot flew over the bar. Shaqiri was catching the eye on the day and scored FCB’s 42nd-minute third, stroking goalwards from a superb Kroos break and cut-back, although Müller unintentionally applied the final touch past Baumann. It remained 3-0 at the break, because although Admir Mehmedi did guide the ball over the Bayern line, the Switzerland international was given narrowly offside.

Late Pizza delivery

Robben crashed a powerful header over the bar in the first chance of the second half, before Müller came amazingly close with a flipped effort from a seemingly impossible angle, Pizarro shot straight at Baumann from a Shaqiri dash, and Contento headed over after one of the home team’s long, precise and assured spells in possession.

A huge cheer greeted the introduction of Bastian Schweinsteiger for the excellent Shaqiri on 61 minutes, with Götze replacing Lahm three minutes later. Mehmedi and Kroos traded long-range drives as FCB approached 80 percent of the possession, but Guardiola’s men had eased back a shade and SCF sub Sebastian Kerk came preciously close on the break.

The boss was immediately up and gesticulating from the coaching zone, Pizarro responding with a low drive that Baumann diverted at full stretch. Daniel van Buyten returned from injury in place of Robben for the closing stages and Martinez stroked a gilt-edged chance wide, before Pizarro rounded off the scoring in the 88th minute, spearing a drive across Baumann and in at the far corner to wrap up a convincing win.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley