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DFB Cup semi-final

Two for Thomas as Reds book berth in Berlin

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A Thomas Müller brace ensured Bayern remain on course for a record 18th DFB Cup triumph after the men from Munich eased past battling Werder Bremen in Tuesday’s first semi-final, the 13th time in a row the Reds have beaten the northerners in a competitive fixture.

The 75,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Pep Guardiola’s men steadily up the pressure after the quarter-hour before Müller handed his side a 30th-minute lead, and although the home team were forced to repel a determined Bremen onslaught in the second half, Müller completed his brace from the spot to steer FCB into the comfort zone with 71 minutes gone.

Munich now proceed to the knockout cup final for the 21st time, where they meet the winners of Wednesday’s second semi-final between Hertha Berlin and Dortmund at the Olympic Stadium in the capital on 21 May. In a curious twist the Bavarians travel to the venerable stadium this very Saturday to face Hertha in the Bundesliga.

Four new faces for Pep

Bayern boss Guardiola made four changes to the team that moved a step closer to the Bundesliga title with a 3-0 victory over Schalke last weekend. Xabi Alonso, Javi Martinez, Müller and Franck Ribery were restored to the team in place of Mehdi Benatia, Rafinha, Arturo Vidal and Douglas Costa, who all began on the bench.

The 17-time cup winners started with Manuel Neuer in goal, Juan Bernat, David Alaba, Martinez and skipper Philipp Lahm in defence, Alonso in central midfield, Ribery and Kingsley Coman on the wings, and Müller, Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski in attack.

Thomas’s opener

In the early exchanges after referee Tobias Stieler blew for kick-off, the visitors made it clear they intended at least initially to make a much better fist of it than in the 5-0 thrashing in the equivalent league fixture just a few weeks ago, with veteran former FCB man Claudio Pizarro and overlapping full-back Janek Sternberg asking a few questions of Neuer and his defence.

But the men in red stood firm and applied fearsome pressure from the 15th minute onwards, with Bernat, Ribery, Götze and Coman all going close. The lead was overdue by the half-hour mark and duly arrived in the simplest manner, Müller directing a firm downward header past Werder keeper Felix Wiedwald from Alonso’s inswinging corner.

The goalscorer came within inches of doubling his tally seconds later, and although Sambou Yatabaré almost capitalised on Neuer’s slightly wayward clearance, the Mali international failed to make the most of the rare opening and the sides turned round with FCB a goal to the good.

Müller from the spot

After the restart, the record cup holders were content to contain their opponents’ determined attempts to find a way back into the match, with Guardiola sending on Benatia and Thiago for Bernat and Götze on the hour. However, Werder centre-back Jannik Vestergaard and midfielder Florian Grillitsch tried their luck before the ball landed in the FCB net off Alaba’s boot, although the effort was rightly chalked off for a foul on the Austrian by Finn Bartels.

Vidal replaced Coman to help stem the tide, and the Chilean was in the thick of it at once, going down in the box in a challenge with Sternberg. TV replays suggested there was no contact but Mr Stieler pointed to the spot and Müller despatched the spot-kick to double his and his side’s tally 20 minutes from time.

The fight went out of Bremen now and the home team engaged cruise control, Vidal blasting into the crowd as the record cup winners closed out a narrow but merited victory.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley