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Bayern 4 Hoffenheim 0

Ruthless Bayern stretch lead at the top

Bastian Schweinsteiger made a first brief appearance of the season as Bayern moved seven points clear of their rivals in the Bundesliga with a fine 4-0 victory at home to fifth-placed Hoffenheim on Saturday, a good end to a week which started badly at the club with Philipp Lahm’s serious injury.

The 71,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Pep Guardiola’s men pushed hard by the lively visitors at the start, but Mario Götze fired the Reds into a 23rd-minute lead with his seventh goal of the campaign and Munich bossed the play from then on. Robert Lewandowski doubled the score before half-time and the home side entered the comfort zone, Arjen Robben adding a third and Sebastian Rode opening his account for Munich in the closing stages as the visitors finished with ten men following sub Adam Szalai’s red card for a bad foul on Dante.

The result, combined with Wolfsburg’s defeat at Schalke, means league leaders FCB are up to 30 points from twelve matches and now lie seven clear of the pursuing pack. The Bavarians return to action on Tuesday in the Champions League Group E trip to Manchester City, before travelling to Berlin to face Hertha in the league next Saturday.

Stand-in skipper Manuel

Guardiola made two changes to his team for the first match since the impressive 4-0 victory away to Eintracht Frankfurt two weeks ago, with Mehdi Benatia and Robben coming in for Dante and injured captain Lahm. The best news before kick-off from a home point of view was Schweinsteiger’s return to the matchday squad for the first time this season, as the vice-captain has finally recovered from a stubborn knee problem.

The champions lined up with captain for the day Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Benatia and Juan Bernat in a conventional back four, Xabi Alonso in his customary holding position, Franck Ribery and Robben on the flanks, and Thomas Müller, Götze and Lewandowski up front.

Mario’s opener

Last season’s corresponding fixture, played in April this year with FCB already confirmed as champions, was a thrill-a-minute 3-3 draw - and after referee Peter Gagelmann whistled play underway it was soon clear Markus Gisdol’s visitors were again determined to make a contest of it for as long as possible. Although Alonso and Co saw the bulk of the ball, Hoffenheim pressed early and created the first clear-cut chance, the unmarked Anthony Modeste heading Tarik Elyounoussi’s volleyed cross wide of Neuer’s left-hand post when scoring looked easier.

Munich kept probing and visiting keeper Oliver Baumann made two big saves, bravely smothering at Müller’s feet after Ribery’s dinked cross and then turning aside a Lewandowski effort. But the former Freiburg shot-stopper was beaten in the 23rd minute by Götze’s superbly-struck, dipping drive from outside the box.

Guardiola’s team tightened their grip on the game now and although chances were still at a premium, it always looked dangerous when Ribery and Robben were on the ball. Götze fizzed a shot on the turn just wide of the upright, but Lewandowski went one better on 40 minutes and doubled the lead with a simple downward header from Robben’s precise chip. 

Spectacular finish

The brisk action continued after the break with goalmouth incidents at both ends, but FCB soon upped the tempo and the chances began to come. Baumann saved bravely from Götze after Boateng’s brilliant sweeping pass picked out the Germany international on the left edge of the box, Lewandowski saw his effort deflected, and Robben drove into the side-netting.

Rode replaced the subdued Müller on the hour and Neuer made his first serious save of the afternoon from Kevin Volland’s speculative drive, but the Reds still controlled the match with no real difficulty. Dante took over from Boateng for the last 20 minutes, but there was a let-off for the home side on 75 minutes when sub Szalai shot straight at Neuer from just three yards after a moment’s confusion in the Bayern defence.

The moment the crowd had been waiting for came with 13 minutes remaining when Schweinsteiger replaced Götze to rapturous applause. The vice-captain soon tested Baumann with a volley, but it was Robben who stole the show with the 82nd-minute third, the Dutchman flipping the ball over the Hoffenheim keeper in a breathtaking display of close control.

But Schweinsteiger was not done yet, crowning his comeback with a lovely assist for Rode to batter home his first goal for the club three minutes from the end. There was still time for Szalai to collect a straight red card for putting his foot through the ball and taking out Dante in an isolated but still unpleasant incident before Mr Gagelmann blew for full time.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley