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FC Nürnberg 0 Bayern 2

Battling Bayern prevail in derby thriller

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Bayern continued their storming run in the Bundesliga and extended their phenomenal unbeaten league streak to 45 games with a 2-0 victory away to Bavarian rivals FC Nürnberg on Saturday afternoon. The 60th top flight derby was a typically all-action affair as the on-fire home team exploded off the blocks, but the champions weathered the storm, scored the crucial opener and made their class tell from then on.

The 50,000 full house at Grundig Stadion saw FCN start at a whirlwind pace and hit the crossbar early on, but Mario Mandzukic ruthlessly put away FCB’s first chance on 18 minutes to hand his side a precious lead. Pep Guardiola’s increasingly assured team themselves hit the goal frame twice before Philipp Lahm forced home the second in the 49th minute to seal a merited victory.

An 18th win from 20 games means FCB now have 56 points, still 13 clear of second-placed Leverkusen, and bringing the prospect of a title triumph in March a step closer. The Reds are back in action on Wednesday night away to crisis club Hamburg in the DFB Cup quarter-finals, before returning to Bundesliga action next Saturday at home to SC Freiburg.

Starts for Robben and Müller

Guardiola made two changes to the team from the emphatic 5-0 demolition of Frankfurt last weekend, Arjen Robben and Thomas Müller replacing Xherdan Shaqiri and Franck Ribery (surgery). Javi Martinez and Toni Kroos joined Shaq and Claudio Pizarro on the bench.

The league leaders began with Manuel Neuer in goal, a back four of Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Dante and David Alaba, captain Lahm anchoring the midfield, Thiago and Mario Götze in the centre, Müller and Robben out wide, and Mandzukic as the nominal striker.

FCN coach Gertjan Verbeek kept faith with the team that beat Hertha Berlin 3-1 in the German capital last weekend. That meant starts for the trio singled out by Guardiola at the pre-match press conference as Nürnberg’s danger men, namely Swiss starlet Josip Drmic, Czech schemer Adam Hlousek and goal-getter Daniel Ginczek, as well as ex-FCB youth Markus Feulner.

Mario hands FCB half-time lead

After referee Tobias Welz blew for kick-off on a mild afternoon in Franconia the sides went at each other from the off, with the home team fashioning the early chances: Ginczek warmed Neuer’s gloves, Drmic shot wide and Japan regular Hiroshi Kiyotake rattled Neuer’s crossbar with an acrobatic scissors-kick from a Feulner cross.

There was a blow for Verbeek’s men on ten minutes when US international Tim Chandler was forced off with a clearly painful knee injury, before Robben sliced FCB’s first chance wide and home keeper and captain Raphael Schäfer made a routine save from Mandzukic. Most of the action was at the other end as Neuer performed heroics to keep out Drmic and Ginczek, but the opening goal went to the visitors when Mandzukic brushed off Marvin Plattenhardt’s challenge and skilfully flick-volleyed Alaba’s 18th-minute cross past Schäfer.

There was more poor fortune for the home side when the dangerous Ginczek hobbled off midway through the first half, and the champions increasingly hit their stride from then on. In an extraordinary sequence of play on the half-hour Robben’s free-kick crashed off the post, Müller headed the rebound onto the bar, and Mandzukic’ follow-up was smothered by Schäfer. FCN sub Tomas Pekhart arrowed a drive wide of the target and Schäfer again saved from Mandzukic as the chances became fewer but the intensity remained high in the minutes before the interval.

Skipper seals it

Guardiola’s side looked lively after the restart and struck again four minutes into the half when Mandzukic sprang the offside trap and unselfishly squared for Lahm to bundle the ball over the line, with Schäfer only able to help it on its way. Bayern began knocking it around now and chances proliferated, but Müller hesitated with the goal gaping, Robben smacked a drive against the post, and Alaba’s swerving free-kick looped past the upright.

The Reds slowed the pace a shade now and there was a brief flurry of yellow cards as a couple of meaty tackles went in, before Martinez took over from Müller with 20 minutes to go. Plattenhardt nicked the ball off Robben’s toe as the Dutchman shaped to slot home, before he gave way to Shaqiri for the last ten minutes. Thiago volleyed just wide, Pizarro replaced man of the match contender Mandzukic and the Peruvian had the ball in the net but from an offside position, before Mr Welz blew for time on an entertaining derby with the bragging rights staying in the state capital.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley