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Bayer Leverkusen 0 Bayern 0 (FCB 5-3 PSO)

Bayern book semi-final berth on penalties

Despite the absence of a host of star individuals with injury, battling Bayern booked their place in this season’s DFB Cup semi-finals with a hard-fought penalty shootout victory away to in-form Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday night after 120 goalless minutes of normal and extra-time. The result, FCB’s 16th straight victory in the domestic knockout competition, takes Munich a step closer to what would be a record hat-trick of cup triumphs and their 18th in all.

The 30,210 full house at the BayArena saw the cup holders and the side lying fourth in the Bundesliga effectively cancel each other out in a zero-sum first-half midfield battle, although Thomas Müller might have opened the scoring with the one gilt-edged chance in the 40th minute. Bayern were a much hotter proposition after the break and pegged the home team back into the final third for long spells, but the decisive goal refused to come and the match went into extra-time. The additional 30 minutes also failed to produce a goal, but in the shootout Manuel Neuer saved from Josip Drmic and sub Thiago tucked away his spot-kick to win it 5-3.

The result means the Reds are through to the last four with the semi-finals scheduled for 28 or 29 April. The Bavarians’ next match is the league meeting with Eintracht Frankfurt at the Allianz Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Götze in for Basti

With Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and keeper Tom Starke all unavailable due to injury, Guardiola made a single change to the team that best Dortmund 1-0 last weekend, bringing in Mario Götze for Schweinsteiger but sticking with Saturday’s flexible 3-1-4-2 or 5-3-2 formation, depending on whether FCB are attacking or defending.

The cup holders began with Manuel Neuer in goal, Jerome Boateng, Mehdi Benatia and Dante in defence, Rafinha and Juan Bernat as wing backs, Xabi Alonso in the holding role, Götze and captain Philipp Lahm in midfield, and Robert Lewandowski and Müller up front.

First-half stalemate

After referee Felix Zwayer whistled play underway on a pleasant spring evening in the Rhineland, caution ruled the roost for the first quarter of an hour as the sides felt each other out, the play fluid but short on penetration. Stefan Kießling headed over Neuer’s crossbar from a Karim Bellarabi cross, but at the other end Lewandowski’s excellent pass released Rafinha, only for the Brazilian’s cross to be deflected for a corner.

Bellarabi hared clear wide on the right only to blast his shot into the crowd, but Munich gradually seized control of the play from the midpoint of the half and the FCB defensive line shifted to a more familiar position higher up the field.

Guardiola was forced into a change on 34 minutes when the limping Benatia was replaced by Sebastian Rode, and Guardiola’s men fashioned the first clear-cut chance six minutes later, Bernat’s deep cross finding Müller unmarked at the back stick but Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno blocking the striker’s shot with his legs. Bellarabi walloped a hopeful volley high and wide, but the sides turned round with the game still goalless.

Eventful second period

Bayer youngster Julian Brandt curled the first chance of the second half well wide of the target, before Götze steered a header from Alonso’s corner past Leno’s far post. The men from Munich upped the tempo with Götze looking especially lively, and Lewandowski had the ball in the net on the hour from a corner only to be hauled back for a foul on Ömer Toprak.

The action hotted up now and Neuer made a huge save in the 65th minute to deny the charging Bellarabi, before the action swung to the other end and Leno produced a great stop of his own against Lewandowski after Götze’s deft lay-off. Thiago replaced Lahm for the last quarter of the match, but the contest entered a cagey spell as the sides avoided risk and error at all costs.

Neuer got down well to another Bellarabi effort, Müller was adjudged to have fouled Leno as he ran onto Rode’s superb diagonal pass, Lewandowski’s close-range effort failed to evade a forest of legs, and there was a huge stoppage time let-off for the visitors when Brandt directed a loose ball wide of the unguarded net, before the game went into extra-time.

Extra-time and penalties

Tiredness began to play a role right from the start of the additional 30 minutes, with Müller almost wriggling clear only for Toprak to block, before Götze missed from close range when Rafinha’s cross somehow found its way to the far post. The second half of extra-time opened with Neuer standing his ground well against the lively Brandt and Bayer sub Drmic heading over the bar, while at the other end Leno beat out a Bernat snap shot.

Holger Badstuber replaced Boateng for the last couple of minutes, with the hapless Brandt firing another good chance wide before referee Zwayer blew for full time. In the shootout, the holders’ heroes were Neuer and Thiago, the keeper saving Leverkusen’s first penalty and the Spaniard netting Bayern’s fifth to see his side through the last four.

Chris Hamley reporting from the BayArena for fcbayern.de

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