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Bayern 4 FC Köln 1

Köln no match for impressive Reds

Bayern maintained their fine Bundesliga form and marked the club’s 115th birthday in style on Friday evening with a deserved 4-1 victory at home to Rhineland rivals Köln, meaning Pep Guardiola’s men have now scored a whopping 18 goals and conceded just one in their last three league fixtures.

The 75,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw the Reds roar into a two-goal lead through Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery after only ten minutes, but for all the champions’ dominance they never killed off their opponents before half-time and Anthony Ujah pulled one back from the last move of the first half. Manuel Neuer was unexpectedly forced into two fine saves as Köln gave it a go on the hour, but Arjen Robben restored the two-goal lead on 67 minutes and Robert Lewandowski made it 4-1 from a perfect counter-attack eight minutes later.

The result takes FCB up to 58 points from 23 fixtures, now 11 points clear of Wolfsburg at the top of the standings, although the Wolves can cut the lead to eight points when they travel to Bremen on Sunday. The Reds now welcome Eintracht Braunschweig to the Allianz Arena in the DFB Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday, before returning to league action away to Hannover next Saturday afternoon.

Starts for Basti and Mario

Guardiola made two changes to the team that put half-a-dozen past Paderborn last time out, with Schweinsteiger and Mario Götze in for the rested Xabi Alonso and Juan Bernat.

The home team lined up with Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber and David Alaba in defence, Schweinsteiger in central midfield, Arjen Robben and Ribery on the flanks, Thomas Müller and Götze in the channels, and Lewandowski at centre-forward.

FCB dominate but Köln strike back

Perhaps inspired by a brilliant crowd choreography to mark the 115th anniversary, the home side roared off the blocks and had the lead just three minutes after referee Daniel Siebert whistled play underway: Robben swung over what was already his side’s fourth corner and Schweinsteiger made light of Kevin Wimmer’s challenge to power a header past Köln keeper Timo Horn.

Horn did very well to deny Robben immediately afterwards and then excelled against Lewandowski after 10 minutes, but the ball hit the net for the second time just seconds later when Ribery collected the loose ball, dribbled across the edge of the Köln box and arrowed a right-foot effort inside the near post.

Guardiola’s side had the match fully under control but eased back just a shade now, and with the visitors not yet resigned to their fate the contest remained open. Müller blocked Jonas Hector’s shot from an indirect free-kick inside the box after Neuer handled what Mr Siebert adjudged a deliberate back pass, but Horn had to look sharp against Lewandowski and was a busy man dealing with plenty of crosses into his box.

However, Köln managed to cut the arrears from the last move before the break when Matthias Lehmann whipped over a cross from a corner and Nigeria hitman Ujah rose above Alaba to guide a simple header past Neuer.

Robben rocks on

Ribery caused havoc with a mazy dribble in the first incident of the second half, and although Slawomir Peszko made a nuisance of himself at the other end, the action was mainly focused on the visitors’ goal: Ribery was crowded out, Müller steered a free header wide, and Boateng pulled the trigger but his aim was faulty.

But with the hour approaching, Neuer was suddenly called into action with two excellent saves from the marauding Ujah and sub Marcel Risse. Robben tried to tee up Ribery from the ensuing counter-attack only for a Köln boot to intervene, but the Dutchman was not to be denied for long and moved onto 17 league goals for the season with a firm header across Horn from Ribery’s precise 67th-minute chip.

Robben curled a free-kick wide of the target and Neuer saved from sub Daniel Halfar, but it was 4-1 after 75 minutes when Lewandowski chested Robben’s dinked pass over the line as Bayern broke at speed, Ribery brilliantly leading the way. Dutch ace Arjen had the bit between his teeth now and Horn scraped the winger’s next effort away from danger, before the keeper saved well from Alaba and Robben again as the Reds ended the game as they started it – on the attack.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley