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Hertha BSC 0 Bayern 1

Hard-working FCB prevail in capital clash

Bayern ensured they will remain at least seven points clear of their Bundesliga rivals after the 13th round of matches thanks to a tight but ultimately merited victory away to Hertha Berlin on Saturday, as Arjen Robben’s first-half goal returned Pep Guardiola’s men to winning ways following a first defeat of the season against Manchester City last Tuesday.

The 76,197 capacity crowd at the iconic Olympic Stadium saw the champions dominate from the off and take a 27th-minute lead through Robben, the Dutchman’s first goal away from the Allianz Arena this term. If it was one-way traffic before the break, it was a different story after it as transformed Hertha put up a gutsy fight, but the visitors worked away tirelessly and saw it through to the end.

A tenth win from 13 league fixtures takes FCB up to 33 points from 13 matches, ten clear of Leverkusen and Wolfsburg prior to the Wolves’ meeting with Gladbach on Sunday. With no midweek fixture on the schedule, the Bavarians return to action next Saturday evening at home to Bayer Leverkusen. 

Manuel with the armband

Guardiola made three changes to the team beaten by City, with Dante, Mario Götze and Thomas Müller in from the start in place of Mehdi Benatia, Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg and Sebastian Rode. Bastian Schweinsteiger started on the bench for the third game in a row with 18-year-old Gianluca Gaudino again in the senior squad.

The Reds lined up with stand-in captain Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, ex-Hertha youth Jerome Boateng, Dante and Juan Bernat in the back four, Xabi Alonso in the holding position, and a front five of Franck Ribery, Robben, Müller, Götze and Robert Lewandowski.

Berlin boss Jos Luhukay named two former FCB men in his squad, with Thomas Kraft starting in goal and Sandro Wagner among the subs, where he sat alongside star summer signing Salomon Kalou.

Arjen’s sixth of the season

After referee Christian Dingert blew for kick-off on a bitterly cold afternoon in the German capital, Guardiola’s team dominated the ball and their opponents at will and should have taken a second-minute lead, only for Lewandowski to blast Müller’s cross over the bar from just five yards. It soon became clear that Guardiola was experimenting tactically on the afternoon as Ribery and Robben probed down the channels and even through the middle, with Lewandowski and Müller frequently retreating to the flanks.

The tweaked system began to pay dividends in the shape of chances after the first quarter of an hour, with Lewandowski crowded out and Müller shooting straight at Kraft from inside the six-yard box. Robben was building up a head of steam now and flashed a drive across the face of goal, before going one better on 27 minutes and opening the scoring with a curled left-foot finish from Müller’s neat back-heeled lay-off.

Bayern’s control was complete but a second goal refused to come before half-time: Bernat’s goalbound drive was deflected just wide, Müller miskicked with the net at his mercy, Lewandowski missed by inches, and the on-fire Ribery beat three men before releasing Müller, who rounded Kraft at pace but was unable to prevent the ball dribbling out of play.

Tight second half

After such a one-sided first period, Luhukay had clearly instructed his men to show more courage and Julian Schieber responded with Hertha’s first shot, albeit well side of Neuer’s goal. However, the visitors were alert to the threat and the action was mainly confined to midfield for the next ten minutes. But Luhukay sent on Kalou and set-piece specialist Ronny on the hour and Berlin were suddenly swarming around the FCB box. Hajime Hosogai even had the ball in the net from Kalou’s header, but the Japan midfielder was offside.

Guardiola opted to shore up the centre and sent on Rode for Götze, but Neuer was forced into a good save from Ronny’s skidding free-kick and gathered at the second attempt, before Lewandowski steered Bayern’s first real chance of the half wide of Kraft’s goal.

Schweinsteiger took over from Müller for the last ten minutes, with Kraft making a brave block from point-blank range after Robben brilliantly released Lewandowski, but there was a let-off at the other end when US international John Anthony Brooks blazed over the bar from eight yards. Kraft again saved from Lewandowski and Rode shot wide as FC found space at the end, before Dingert blew for full time on an interesting contest.

Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley

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