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DFB Cup success

Alonso blasts Bayern into last eight

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Xabi Alonso was the match-winner with a cracking 40th-minute strike as Bayern maintained their perfect home record in the 2015/16 campaign in a narrow but merited 1-0 win over Darmstadt in Tuesday night’s DFB Cup Round of 16 tie. The scoreline was tight but in truth, Pep Guardiola’s team reached the quarter-finals with something to spare.

The 70,000 crowd at the Allianz Arena saw the minnows defend stoutly for much of the first half, but Alonso broke the deadlock with a thumping volley five minutes before the break, with Robert Lewandowski hitting the post shortly afterwards. The Bundesliga league leaders never looked in danger of surrendering the lead as they closed out the match in a workmanlike fashion in the second half.

The last eight ties in the DFB Cup will be drawn after the remaining Round of 16 matches on Wednesday and played in early March next year. The Bavarians’ final match prior to the winter break is Saturday afternoon’s Bundesliga trip to face struggling Hannover 96.

Alonso in for Badstuber

Bayern coach Guardiola made just a single change to the team that beat Ingolstadt 2-0 in at the weekend, with Alonso coming into the side in place of the benched Holger Badstuber. As before, FCB were without a host of injured stars including Douglas Costa, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, David Alaba and Mario Götze.

The home team began with Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng and captain Philipp Lahm nominally in defence, Alonso in the holding role, Arturo Vidal and Joshua Kimmich in central midfield, and Kingsley Coman, Müller and Lewandowski up front.

Xabi breaks the deadlock

After referee Daniel Siebert whistled play underway, the home team eased into gear and Müller had a very early chance from a Kimmich cross, but the Germany striker failed to get power on his header. Coman was a lively presence and twice twisted and turned in the box, but the visitors parked the proverbial bus and kept it very tight at the back.

After a couple of early sighters Lewandowski was beginning to make a nuisance of himself and came close on 19 minutes, only to shoot wide of the target from the inside-right position. At the other end, Marcel Heller directed a rare Darmstadt opportunity wide of Neuer’s goal after a cross supplied by former Munich man Sandro Wagner.

The visitors weathered the Bayern storm and the contest meandered for a time round the half-hour, but the Reds picked up the pace again in the ten minutes before the interval. Alonso aimed his 35th-minute free-kick straight at Lilies keeper Christian Mathenia.

The deadlock was finally broken on 40 minutes when Coman won a corner off Heller after a fine solo run. The ball bobbled loose from the ensuing set piece and Alonso crashed a superb 25-yard volley past Mathenia and into the top right-hand corner of the net. Buoyed by the opener, Bayern almost doubled their lead before half-time but Lewandowski headed a Lahm centre against the left-hand upright.

Reds close out the win

The Lilies made the first opening of the second half on 51 minutes, but Tobias Kempe shot too high after Coman was robbed in possession. That spurred Munich into action and Müller tried a shot on the turn from Kimmich’s chip, but the ball skidded just wide of the post. Heller won Darmstadt their first corner with the hour approaching but Boateng was alert to the danger, before Mathenia did well to scramble aside Müller’s deflected drive.

Thiago replaced Vidal midway through the second period, with Kimmich shooting over the bar and Thiago releasing Lahm down the right for a dangerous foray, but with the clock ticking down the visitors finally opted to take a risk or two and Wagner got in a header from Heller’s burst and cross.

Bosnia international Mario Vrancic ushered in the closing stages with a free-kick just over Neuer’s crossbar, but at the other end Lahm headed too high from Müller’s delivery, and the Germany goal-getter had a decent shout for a penalty waved away after what looked like a foul in the box by Junior Diaz.

The men in red sought to wrap it up with a second goal but Mathenia beat away Coman’s scissors-kick and Rafinha’s speculative effort sailed into the crowd, with Rode replacing Lahm for the last couple of minutes as the Bundesliga league leaders serenely protected their lead through to the finish.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley