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Manchester City 3 Bayern 2

Ten-man Bayern undone by three-goal Aguero

Bayern played 70 minutes of Tuesday’s Champions League Group E clash away to Manchester City with only ten men following Mehdi Benatia’s early dismissal, but the Bavarians produced a gutsy performance and even looked like taking the points until Sergio Aguero struck twice in the last five minutes to condemn Pep Guardiola’s side to a first defeat of the season.

The 47,726 crowd at the Etihad Stadium saw FCB start brightly enough, but Guardiola’s men went a goal and a man down after only 20 minutes when Benatia saw a red card for a foul as last man on Aguero, the Argentine hitman himself tucking away the ensuing penalty. Bayern regrouped superbly as Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski turned the match on its head in a blistering five minutes before half-time, but the visitors were increasingly forced onto the back foot in the second half and Aguero struck to deadly and match-winning effect in the closing stages.

The result means group winners FCB remain on 12 points from their five matches so far, but following City’s win and CSKA Moscow’s last-gasp equaliser to draw 1-1 with Roma earlier in the evening, there is all to play for in the race for second spot as the three remaining teams are in a winner-takes-all constellation. The Bavarians are back in action on Saturday with the trip to face Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga.

Götze and Müller on the bench

Guardiola made two changes compared to the routine 4-0 victory at home to Hoffenheim last weekend, with Sebastian Rode and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg coming in for Mario Götze and Thomas Müller. The World Cup-winning pair started on the bench alongside vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger and the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and young Gianluca Gaudino.

It meant the 2013 Champions League winners lined up with stand-in captain Manuel Neuer in goal behind a back four of Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Benatia and Juan Bernat. Alonso took the holding role, with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben out wide, Rode and Hojbjerg in the centre, and Lewandowski at centre-forward.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini made five changes to his team from Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League win over Swansea, two of them enforced due to European suspensions for Fernandinho and Yaya Touré. Ex-FCB man Martin Demichelis was among those dropped to the bench, but veteran midfielder Frank Lampard made a first start for the Sky Blues.

Fine FCB fightback

The home side, realistically needing a win to keep alive their hopes of a berth in the last sixteen, started briskly enough after Czech referee Pavel Kralovec whistled play underway. But the first actual chances fell to the increasingly assured visitors, City keeper Joe Hart blocking bravely after Rode ran onto Robben’s reverse pass, the Dutchman himself firing wide, and James Milner charging down Alonso’s goalbound effort.

However, the German champions were reduced to ten men on 20 minutes when Aguero fell in the box under Benatia’s challenge as the pair chased down a long ball. Once Mr Kralovec had conferred with his assistant and settled on a foul, he had no option but to dismiss Benatia and award a penalty, cleanly struck past Neuer’s outstretched left hand by Aguero himself.

Guardiola reacted to the misfortune by taking off the unlucky Rode and sending on Dante. FCB soon recovered their composure, restricting City to a long-range Lampard piledriver in the ensuing period, before the contest abruptly changed course in the five minutes before the interval. Alonso initially levelled the scores after 40 minutes with what is becoming a trademark direct free-kick under the defensive wall, before Lewandowski looped the ball over Hart on the stroke of half-time with a combination of his head and shoulder after beating Eliaquim Mangala to one of Boateng’s many superbly delivered long passes.

Rearguard action after the break

The ten-man visitors remained on the front foot after the restart and Alonso unluckily got under his shot from the edge of the box after an exchange of passes with Ribery. However, the effort of playing with a man less began to take its toll and Pellegrini’s men finally rallied, with Neuer saving well from Jesus Navas after a slide-rule Sami Nasri pass, Milner bending a shot narrowly wide, and Lampard drawing a fine save from Neuer with a 70th-minute thunderbolt.

The Sky Blues turned up the heat in the last 15 minutes and Bayern were forced to defend in depth. Home captain Vincent Kompany shot wide after a corner, before Schweinsteiger and Shaqiri took over from Ribery and Lewandowski for the last ten minutes. City were finally rewarded for their persistence with five minutes to play when the ever-dangerous Aguero broke clear of the defence onto sub Stevan Jovetic’ through ball and slid his finish just inside the far post to level it up.

There was worse to come for Guardiola’s men when Aguero pounced on Boateng’s only mistake of the night to beat Neuer again and win it for City in the first minute of stoppage time, sealing FCB’s first defeat of an otherwise perfect season so far.

Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley

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