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Bayern 1 Bayer Leverkusen 0

Century of goals for match-winner Ribery

Franck Ribery’s 100th goal for Bayern proved a vital one as the Reds maintained their seven-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga thanks to a 1-0 victory at home to fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. The win in an intense and at time enthralling contest means Munich are unbeaten in 18 in the league and have won their last ten home games.

The 71,000 capacity crowd at the Allianz Arena saw a quality first half played at breathtaking pace, with Pep Guardiola’s men seeing more of the ball but finding clear-cut openings hard to come by. The home side upped the urgency after the restart and Ribery broke the deadlock six minutes into the second half with a cracking volleyed finish, handing his side a lead they never looked in danger of losing.

An 11th win from 14 league fixtures takes FCB up to 36 points from 14 matches, seven clear of chief pursuers Wolfsburg. The Reds return to action with the sixth and final Champions League Group E fixture at home to CSKA Moscow on Wednesday before the tricky Bundesliga trip to high-flying Bavarian neighbours Augsburg next Saturday. 

Manuel with the armband

With the injury situation at FCB unchanged compared to last week, Guardiola made a single alteration to the team that beat Hertha Berlin in the previous fixture, Dante giving way to Mehdi Benatia at centre-back. Manuel Neuer retained the armband with Bastian Schweinsteiger starting among the subs for the fourth game in a row.

The Reds lined up with stand-in skipper Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Benatia and Juan Bernat in defence, Xabi Alonso as the midfield anchor, and Ribery, Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller, Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski in attack.

Goalless first period

After referee Knut Kircher whistled play underway on a chilly evening in the Bavarian capital, the visitors made a lively start and FCB were indebted to Bernat for a goal-line clearance after Karim Bellarabi profited from a mix-up between Boateng and Alonso and flicked the ball over the onrushing Neuer. Heung-Min Son then latched onto Hakan Calhanoglu’s clever pass, but Stefan Kießling came up inches short of the South Korean’s cross.

But the home side settled after a quarter of an hour and pressed Bayer back into the own third of the field. Lewandowski almost got on the end of Bernat’s chip but Brazilian left-back Wendell intervened at the expense of a corner. Leverkusen pulled men back and focused on defence for a long spell, but Bellarabi’s skidding shot on the half-hour ushered in a more even spell and Bayer now posed a sporadic threat on the break, Neuer playing the trademark sweeper-keeper to deny Son on 40 minutes. Robben had the ball in the net a minute later but Kircher had already blown for a foul on Bayer keeper Bernd Leno, and the sides turned round with the game still goalless.

Franck breaks the deadlock

With Sebastian Rode on for Mario Götze as a second holding midfielder after the restart, Guardiola’s men were obviously keen to push on and took a 51st-minute lead after a spell of intense pressure: Alonso won the header from Rafinha’s cross into the box and Ribery cracked home a superb volley to open the scoring.

The Reds were suddenly motoring and Müller was desperately unlucky to see his cross-shot come back off Leno and then the post, before the Bayer keeper reacted superbly to push Robben’s piledriver over the bar. Lewandowski then hit the side-netting after a break created by Boateng’s brilliantly taken quick free-kick and Leno comfortably dealt with a Robben curler as the balance of play decisively shifted in the home side’s favour.

In the closing stages Bayern were for the most part content to keep possession and let the ball do the work, with Leverkusen trying in vain to create anything nearer than 30 yards from Neuer’s goal. FCB had plenty of space on the break too with the outstanding Rode releasing Müller only for Leno to save, before Schweinsteiger and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg saw a couple of minutes on the field in place of Müller and Lewandowski at the end.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley