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Borussia Dortmund 0 Bayern 1

Reds dig deep and down Dortmund

Injury-hit Bayern bounced back from defeat to Gladbach in the Bundesliga last time out with a fighting victory away to arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Xabi Alonso called the tactical shots, Robert Lewandowski scored the vital goal and Thiago returned to action as a sub as the men from Munich deservedly took the three points and strengthened their grip on top spot in the table.

The 80,667 full house at Signal Iduna Park saw the champions and last season’s runners-up cancel each other out for the first half-hour, but Pep Guardiola’s superbly disciplined side upped the tempo after that and took a deserved 36th-minute lead through former BVB hero Robert Lewandowski. Jürgen Klopp’s men came out fighting for the second half but Alonso and his troops showed huge composure to repel the onslaught as the Reds dug deep and sealed a narrow but merited win.

The result means the Reds are up to 67 points from 27 league game, still ten clear of chief pursuers Wolfsburg after the Wolves’ 3-1 win over lowly Stuttgart in the afternoon. The action comes thick and fast from now on as the Bavarians travel to face Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday, before the league meeting with Eintracht Frankfurt at the Allianz Arena next Saturday afternoon.

Pep forced to improvise

With Arjen Robben and David Alaba facing long lay-offs, Franck Ribery still struggling with an ankle injury and Holger Badstuber nursing a knock picked up on Germany duty, Guardiola made four changes to the team beaten by Gladbach 13 days ago, bringing in Mehdi Benatia, Dante, Philipp Lahm and Thomas Müller.

It was captain Lahm’s first start since breaking an ankle four months ago, with BVB old boy Robert Lewandowski also in the line-up but fellow ex-Dortmund star Mario Götze alongside the likes of Thiago on the bench.

The league leaders began with Manual Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Benatia, Dante and Juan Bernat in defence, Xabi Alonso in the holding role, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lahm in midfield, and Lewandowski and Müller up front.

Robert breaks the deadlock

After a meticulously-observed minute’s silence for the victims of the Germanwings air disaster, veteran referee Knut Kircher whistled play underway on a dry but chilly evening in the Ruhr Valley. The home side edged the early exchanges but the first chance fell to Müller on seven minutes, his lob over BVB keeper Roman Weidenfeller not quite having the legs to beat the covering Neven Subotic.

Lewandowski had the ball in the net on 13 minutes only to be called fractionally offside from Müller’s pass, but the sides neutralised each other for a spell after that with a few rustic tackles on either side in the struggle for midfield supremacy.

Guardiola’s men seized the initiative on the half-hour and Rafinha pumped in a couple of dangerous crosses, with Alonso curling a direct free-kick only just wide of Dortmund’s left-hand upright, before Lewandowski silenced the noisy home crowd on 36 minutes by heading home the opening goal from the rebound after Weidenfeller could only parry Müller’s close-range effort.

Rearguard action in second period

The busy home team fashioned the first chance of the second half when Greek defender Sokratis blasted goalwards, and Alonso and Co had their work cut out stemming the yellow and black tide. Schweinsteiger had taken a first-half knock and was replaced by Sebastian Rode on 58 minutes, before Marco Reus cracked Borussia’s first half-decent chance into the side-netting on the hour.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ballooned a good chance into the crowd after Benatia’s slip, but the travelling support were cheering on 69 minutes when Thiago made his comeback in place of Lahm after more than a year on the sidelines.

The Spaniard was soon showing all his deft touches and skill but the momentum was with BVB and Boateng performed heroics to block from Reus and sub Adrian Ramos. Götze came on for Müller and received the customary warm reception from the south terrace, but despite a late BVB rally, Neuer made a superb stop at the death from Reus’s free-kick and the points were in the bag.

Chris Hamley reporting from Signal Iduna Park for