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Tight but deserved win

Ribery wonder strike seals three crucial points

Bayern go into Tuesday’s crucial Champions League quarter-final first leg against Benfica with their morale high after a memorable Franck Ribery strike earned a tight but fully merited 1-0 Bundesliga victory at home to Eintracht Frankfurt, a result that restores the Reds’ eight-points lead at the top of the table at least for the time being.

The 75,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Franck Ribery hand Pep Guardiola’s team a 20th-minute lead with a glorious finish, although there were no further first-half goals as the relegation-threatened visitors made a decent fight of it. Xabi Alonso hit the bar at the start of the second period but it was to stay at 1-0 as Bayern did what was necessary to close out the result.

A 23rd league win of the campaign means FCB now have 72 points, once again eight clear of second-placed Dortmund ahead of the black-and-yellows’ meeting with Bremen in the evening. Following the midweek appointment with the Lisbon giants, the Bavarians return to domestic league action next Saturday afternoon away to South German rivals VfB Stuttgart.

Götze and Müller from the off

Bayern boss Guardiola made five changes to the team that won narrowly away to Köln before the international break. Captain Philipp Lahm, fit-again Javi Martinez, Ribery, Thomas Müller and Mario Götze started in place of Sebastian Rode, Rafinha, Joshua Kimmich, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman, with the young France starlet excused duty entirely after taking a knock in training on Friday.

Arturo Vidal, who like Costa was in action in South America during the week, joined the Brazilian on the bench, with Arjen Robben still sidelined by injury.

The league leaders lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal, Lahm, Martinez, David Alaba and Juan Bernat in the back four, Xabi Alonso in the holding position, Müller, Götze, Thiago and Ribery in midfield, and Robert Lewandowski up front.

The match marked a return to Munich for former FCB duo Niko and Robert Kovac, the newly-installed head and assistant coaching team at Eintracht. The visitors began the match second from bottom of the standings and were still without last season’s Bundesliga top scorer, the injured Alex Meier.

Franck’s superb opener

Following a minute’s applause in honour of deceased great Johan Cruyff, referee Florian Meyer set the game in motion on a sunny spring afternoon in the Bavarian capital. Kovac had promised his side would not simply park the bus and his troops stuck to their boss’s orders in an evenly-matched opening quarter-hour, with just a Götze half-chance and a tantalising Ribery cut-back to show for the home team’s efforts.

That all changed on 20 minutes when Götze fired goalwards, the ball looped up off visiting keeper Lukas Hradecky’s boot, and Ribery netted from the edge of the box with a wonderfully acrobatic bicycle kick. The men in red comfortably controlled the play after that with openings for Alonso and Martinez after a corner, but Eintracht maintained their determined resistance and just the one goal separated the sides at the interval.

Goalless second period

The first chance of the second half fell to Frankfurt’s Szabolcs Huszti with a skidding cross-shot, although the Hungarian appeared to pull a muscle in the process and had to be substituted. The Reds upped the tempo and Müller’s shot was blocked after a Hradecky flap, Alonso’s curling free-kick cracked against the bar and away from danger, and the Eintracht keeper blocked Bernat’s drive.

Frankfurt’s Finland shot-stopper made another good save to deny Alonso, before Costa took over from Lewandowski for the last 20 minutes. FCB were dominant but the lead by only a single goal was far from comfortable and Carlos Zambrano came within inches of punishing Guardiola’s men on a rare Eintracht foray.

Visiting sub Sonny Kittel also set home nerves jangling with an angled drive just wide of the upright, before Vidal replaced Götze in the closing stages. Müller was denied by Hradecky at the death as the Reds saw out a hard-fought but ultimately deserved victory.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley