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FC Augsburg 0 Bayern 4

Reds roar to victory in devastating second half

Rampaging Bayern plundered four goals in 13 blistering second-half minutes to see off the gritty challenge posed by third-placed FC Augsburg in Saturday’s Bavarian derby. The ultimately emphatic victory guarantees top spot in the Bundesliga at Christmas for Pep Guardiola’s team and also means Munich stretch their unbeaten run in the league to 19 matches.

The 30,660 capacity crowd at the SGL Arena saw the Arjen Robben-inspired visitors push, probe and create almost all the first-half chances, but the high-flying home team defended resolutely and the game was deadlocked at the break. It was a different story once FCB hit their stride just short of the hour, with Mehdi Benatia’s maiden Bundesliga goal opening the floodgates, Robben bagging a brace and Robert Lewandowski adding another as quality won the day against enthusiasm and effort.

An 12th win from 15 league fixtures takes FCB up to 39 points from 15 matches, ten clear of chief pursuers Wolfsburg at least until Sunday, when the Wolves face Paderborn. The Reds are back in action on Tuesday in the second to last match prior to the mid-season break when SC Freiburg visit the Allianz Arena.

Alonso and Schweinsteiger both start

Guardiola made five changes to the team that eased to a 3-0 victory over CSKA Moscow on Wednesday. Mehdi Benatia returned from a Champions League suspension and was joined in the starting line-up by Rafinha, Xabi Alonso, Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski. For FCB fans that yielded the mouth-watering combination of Alonso and Bastian Schweinsteiger starting a game together for the first time.

The quintet took over from Dante, Mario Götze, Thomas Müller and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who all began on the bench, with Gianluca Gaudino not in the matchday squad. Claudio Pizarro resumed training during the week after recovering from a torn muscle but was also not among the travelling party.

The Reds lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Benatia and Juan Bernat in defence, Alonso as the anchor with Sebastian Rode and captain Schweinsteiger in attacking midfield, and Franck Ribery, Robben and Robert Lewandowski as the front three.

Aggressive Augsburg

After referee Tobias Stieler whistled play underway on an exceptionally mild December afternoon in Bavarian Swabia, Guardiola’s team landed the first blows but Schweinsteiger’s header was too tame to trouble much-travelled former Arsenal keeper Alex Manninger in the FCA goal and Robben’s drive skidded inches wide of the target.

As the FCB camp had expected it was tough going at times against Markus Weinzierl’s robust and motivated home team, and although the league leaders dominated possession, clear-cut chances were few and far between for a long spell. The Reds shifted up a gear on 25 minutes and the openings began to come, with Manninger saving another Schweinsteiger header, Rode firing over the bar, Lewandowski seeing his shot blocked, and Benatia and Robben driving just too close to the FCA keeper.

However, Weinzierl’s men grimly stuck to their task with Tobias Werner even directing a flicked effort at Neuer’s goal, and apart from Rode’s mis-hit shot on 42 minutes the Reds were unable to muster any further chances.

Devastating spell after the hour

It was a different story after the restart as Guardiola’s men steadily and surely began to grind down their game but tiring opponents. Manninger reacted well to prevent Alonso opening the scoring with a 50th-minute header and parried Ribery’s low shot, but the Frenchman then directed his next drive wide of the target when he looked certain to score.

It no longer mattered on 58 minutes when Benatia spun in the air and directed a glancing header in off Manninger’s left-hand upright from Ribery’s floated free-kick. It was game over less than a minute later when the home defence stood off as Robben controlled a Lewandowski lay-off and curled a beautiful left-footed shot into the net off the opposite post.

Augsburg crumbled now in the face of the Munich onslaught and Lewandowski himself made it three on 68 minutes with a rifled right-footed shot just inside the post. The fourth came a mere three minutes later: With the FCA defence scrambling in his wake, Robben dribbled across the 18-yard line before directing an angled finish past Manninger’s despairing dive. Hojbjerg, Götze and Müller now replaced Schweinsteiger, Alonso and Robben as the clock ran down, with a Lewandowski effort just deflected wide and Müller’s close-range shot blocked on the line.

Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley

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