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Hannover 1 Bayern 3

Hard-working Reds extend lead at the top

Bayern stretched their winning run against Hannover 96 to eight in a row with a 3-1 away success in the Bundesliga on Saturday, as Pep Guardiola’s men extended their lead at the top of the table and warmed up well for the crunch Champions League Round of 16 return at home to Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek.

The 49,000 full house at the HDI Arena saw a brisk first half with Hiroshi Kiyotake opening for the home team but Xabi Alonso equalising almost immediately from a superb direct free-kick. Munich upped the ante after the break and Thomas Müller gave his side the lead with a 61st-minute penalty, the same player making it safe at 3-1 with a powerful headed goal 11 minutes later.

A 19th win in 24 league games this term takes the Bavarians onto 61 points, now 11 ahead of second-placed Wolfsburg after Dieter Hecking’s side were beaten by Augsburg. The Reds are next in action on Wednesday in the do-or-die meeting with Donetsk, before the Bundesliga trip to resurgent Werder Bremen the following Saturday.

Three changes for FCB

Guardiola made three changes to the team that beat Braunschweig 2-0 in the DFB Cup last Wednesday with Juan Bernat, Holger Badstuber and Müller coming into the side in place of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and Robert Lewandowski.

It meant the champions began with Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Dante and Badstuber in defence, Xabi Alonso and David Alaba in central midfield, and Arjen Robben, Bernat, Mario Götze and Müller in attack.

Xabi on target

After referee Tobias Welz whistled play underway, the visitors smoothly seized the initiative and began probing away at the deep-lying home side, Alaba drawing a first save from H96 keeper Ron-Robert Zieler on seven minutes with a dipping free-kick. Robben buzzed away on the right and let off a couple of sighters, but Hannover slowly dug in and Salif Sané spooned a header over Neuer’s bar with 19 minutes played.

FCB were dominant but Tayfun Korkut’s side scored the opening goal on 25 minutes when Japan international Kiyotake accelerated away from Dante and angled a shot past Neuer after a neat interchange of passes between Sané and Jimmy Briand.

The Reds were stung into action and levelled just three minutes later when Alonso brilliantly looped an unstoppable direct free-kick over the Hannover wall and into the next with the unsighted Zieler rooted to his line. Guardiola sent on Lewandowski for Dante but the home team stood firm and the game was deadlocked at the interval.

Thomas at the double

Hannover came out fighting at the start of the second half, but Munich soon reasserted control and Lewandowski just failed to get power on a header from a Rafinha cross. Ribery replaced Götze in the 53rd minute and Zieler was soon saving at the Frenchman’s feet, but it was Ribery’s flick to set up Lewandowski just a couple of yards from goal that drew a foul from Marcelo and a penalty to FCB on the hour, Müller despatching the spot-kick with aplomb to complete the turnaround.

Schweinsteiger took over from Alonso for the last 25 minutes, but it was Müller who scored his second of the day and settled any remaining doubts with a bullet header from Ribery’s superb cross in the 72nd minute. Guardiola’s men had the game fully in their grasp now as the game home team tired, but although Ribery and Robben both came close with long-range efforts, the score remained 3-1 through to the final whistle as FCB chalked up a hard-earned but ultimately deserved win.

Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley

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