presented by
Eintracht Braunschweig 0 Bayern 2

Hard-working FCB return to winning ways

After a below-par run of three league fixtures without a victory Bayern returned to winning ways in the Bundesliga on Saturday with a hard-working success away to bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig courtesy of second-half goals from Claudio Pizarro and Mario Mandzukic. The merited victory was a boost to morale in the build-up to Wednesday’s Champions League showdown away to Real Madrid.

The 32,325 full house at the Eintracht Stadium saw the relegation strugglers put up a determined and high-energy show of resistance in the first half, effectively neutralising the visitors’ greater quality. But all the running and chasing took its toll and the champions upped the ante after the break, Pizarro finally breaking the deadlock with 15 minutes to play and sub Mandzukic wrapping it up four minutes from time.

The result takes FCB onto 81 points from 31 matches, 17 clear of Dortmund in second. The Bavarians are back in action four days from now in the eagerly-awaited European first leg encounter in the Spanish capital against Cristiano Ronaldo and Co.

Pep’s improvised line-up

Boss Pep Guardiola was without a total of eight men on the day: suspended duo Toni Kroos and Rafinha, flu victim David Alaba, and injured quintet Manuel Neuer (calf), Xherdan Shaqiri (sprain), Thiago (ligaments), Tom Starke (elbow surgery) and Holger Badstuber (sports rehab after cruciate surgery).

As a result, the Spaniard made four changes to his team compared to the 5-1 cup semi-final victory over Kaiserslautern. Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg, Javi Martinez, Mario Götze and Pizarro replaced Alaba, Kroos, Thomas Müller and Mandzukic.

FCB lined up with Lukas Raeder in goal, Jerome Boateng, Martínez, Dante and captain Philipp Lahm in the back four, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Hojbjerg in central midfield, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery out wide, Götze in the hole, and Pizarro at centre-forward.

On the bench, there were first-team squad debuts for reserves Alessandro Schöpf and Benno Schmitz, with U-19 keeper Raif Husic and Mitch Weiser also taking seats in the dugout.

First-half stalemate

After referee Daniel Siebert blew for kick-off on a fine afternoon in Lower Saxony, the home side made an early impression with a muscular pressing game, stifling the Reds’ normal smooth passing rhythms for a time. But Guardiola’s side picked up the pace after ten minutes and fashioned the first clear-cut chance when Ribery found himself with only keeper Daniel Davari to beat. The winger unselfishly squared for the unmarked Robben, but defender Deniz Dogan lunged in and cleared to safety.

The home side might have taken an 18th-minute lead when the unmarked Jan Hochscheidt headed Omar Elabdellaoui’s precise cross wide of Raeder’s right-hand upright, but FCB were soon back up the other end with Ribery and Robben both trying their luck from distance.

Eintracht threatened sporadically but Hochscheidt shot straight at Raeder, before Hojbjerg shaved the crossbar from the edge of the box following Robben’s intelligent lay-off. However, with the bottom club still chasing and harrying furiously, FCB were content to conserve energy and the game remained goalless at half-time.

Late strikes seal it

The first ten minutes after the restart were scrappy and punctuated by a string of fouls from the home team, with Norman Theuerkauf picking up a yellow card for clattering into Lahm. Almost an hour had passed before Hojbjerg warmed Davari’s gloves from long range, but the men in red picked up the pace now with Boateng heading wide, Schweinsteiger spearing a volley past the far post from a Ribery chip, Dante aiming a header over the bar, and Götze stumbling as he thrust into the box.

Guardiola switched things around for the last 20 minutes with Müller and Mandzukic taking over from Robben and Ribery. Müller immediately made his presence felt with a pass to release Götze, the Germany man in turn slipping a ball through to Pizarro for the Peruvian to break the deadlock with his sixth goal of the season.

The home side threw men forward now in the search for a point but were caught out badly in the 86th minute when Raeder simply launched a long punt forwards and Mandzukic outpaced the Eintracht defence before slipping the ball through Davari’s legs to wrap up the deserved win.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley