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TSG Hoffenheim 0 Bayern 2

Rode’s moment of magic in merited win

Battling Bayern overcame the loss of eight players and moved to within two wins of a 25th German league crown with a deserved 2-0 success away to TSG Hoffenheim on Saturday, Sebastian Rode’s fine goal setting his side on their way in a welcome boost to morale ahead of Tuesday’s make-or-break European clash with Porto.

The 30,150 full house at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena in Sinsheim saw Pep Guardiola’s men dominate from the off, and although Manuel Neuer brilliantly denied Anthony Modeste on the half-hour, it was the home team’s only real chance before the break and Rode’s excellent 38th-minute opener was fully deserved. Rode continued to catch the eye with his prodigious work-rate and the introduction of Thiago on the hour added real urgency to the leaders’ game as Munich closed out the result with some ease, icing the cake in stoppage time when Andreas Beck turned Thomas Müller's lay-off over his own line with the last kick of the match.

A 23rd victory from 29 league games means Bayern are up to 73 points and lead chief pursuers Wolfsburg by 13, at least until the Wolves host Schalke on Sunday. The Bavarians’ next match is comfortably the most important of the season so far as they attempt to overturn the 3-1 deficit against Porto in Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final return, before Hertha Berlin visit the Allianz Arena in the league next Saturday afternoon.

Four changes, three rested

With an eye on Tuesday's do-or-die return against Porto, Guardiola made four changes to the team from the first leg. Holger Badstuber, Rode, Mitch Weiser and 18-year-old Gianluca Gaudino, in for his first start since the opening match of the season, took over from stomach bug victim Philipp Lahm and rested trio Jerome Boateng, Xabi Alonso and Thiago.

Lahm's illness meant FCB were without a total of eight players on the day, as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, David Alaba, Mehdi Benatia, Javi Martínez and Tom Starke are all still unfit.

The leaders lined up with captain for the day Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Dante, Badstuber and Juan Bernat in the back four, Rode and Gaudino in the middle, Mario Götze and Weiser out wide, and Thomas Müller in behind centre-forward Robert Lewandowski.

Rode with the opener

After referee Tobias Stieler whistled play underway on a sunny spring afternoon in the Kraichgau region, the visitors made much the livelier start with Bernat and Weiser mounting early raids down the flanks, the youngster missing his kick when well placed after home keeper Oliver Baumann flapped at a cross, Rode and Götze combining well but seeing shots blocked, and Lewandowski heading a Weiser centre narrowly wide.

FCB were clearly in control, but Modeste had given notice of intent with a 15th-minute header, and the French hitman looked certain to score on the half-hour when he hared clear of the Bayern defence. However, Neuer stood his ground and made a superb reflex save with his outstretched leg.

A Hoffenheim goal would have made a mockery of the balance of play in the first half, and Bayern ensured the score took on a realistic look when Rode netted his second of the season in the 38th minute with a delightful curler from 12 yards, Lewandowski having unselfishly laid off the loose ball when Baumann spilled Müller’s low drive.

Thiago injects urgency

Boateng came on for the second half in place of Bernat, who was substituted as a precaution after taking a knock before the break. The early chances after the restart were both created by Rode and fell to Lewandowski, but the Pole saw a shot deflected onto the crossbar and was then denied when clean through by Tobias Strobl.

Gaudino gave way to Thiago after 57 minutes and FCB immediately upped the tempo, Baumann producing a remarkable double save to deny the Spanish sub and Müller from close range, before Weiser was crowded out close to goal. The nearest the home team came was Kevin Volland’s 63rd-minute belter, but the rasping drive missed by inches.

Guardiola’s men moved in for the kill and camped out in the final third for a long spell, but Hoffenheim legs and bodies stopped good efforts from Lewandowski and Boateng. Sebastian Rudy curled a free-kick only just wide as the men from the Kraichgau attempted a late rally but Neuer and company held firm, Lewandowski coming agonisingly close as FCB closed out a valuable win. As a bonus, the winning margin was doubled right at the end when home skipper Beck unluckily turned Müller's lay-off over his own line with the last kick of the match.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley