FC Bayern convincingly beat FC Köln 3-0 on Saturday, Javi Martínez scoring the opener midway through the first half before his Spanish compatriot Juan Bernat doubled the lead shortly after half-time. Bayern's defence played a key role on Saturday, Manuel Neuer preventing an early opener with a standout save, two defenders finding the net and Arturo Vidal particularly industrious, turning in an excellent display. Needless to say, Bayern's attackers also had a word to say, and sub Franck Ribéry made it three in the dying embers of the game.
Many changes, unusual starting midfield
The German record champions started with Manuel Neuer behind a back four comprising skipper Philipp Lahm, Martínez, David Alaba and Bernat. Vidal and Thiago took up station in front of the rearguard, with Bayern's attacking unit featuring Thomas Müller, wingers Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa and striker Robert Lewandowski.
Carlo Ancelotti comprehensively shuffled his deck, making five changes to the XI that downed Schalke in the DFB Cup. Full-backs Lahm and Bernat returned, with Alaba deputising as a centre-back. Bayern's attacking midfield had an unfamiliar look featuring trio Müller, Coman and Costa, with Thiago moving to the holding role. Mats Hummels, Rafinha, Ribéry, Arjen Robben and Xabi Alonso gave way to the quintet, starting on the bench. The day was over for Costa shortly after half-time, when he sustained a knock and was replaced by Ribéry before Joshua Kimmich and Rafinha took over from Vidal and Coman.
The 50,000 capacity crowd at Cologne's Rheinenergiestadion saw the champions in the driving seat, dominating possession, but finding no space against the home side's deep rearguard in a dour first quarter-hour. Bayern then camped out around their opponents' box, but their siege and a number of corners did not yield any goals. The Bavarians frequently tried to create danger by means of short crosses from the edge of the box, the Rhineland outfit threatening on the break, and Bayern soon had to thank Manuel Neuer, whose world-class save from a fine Osako header kept the scores level.
Bayern jumped straight back on the throttle, and their positional flexibility proved key when their relentless pressure paid off, Martínez deputising as a centre-forward to tap in a Vidal pass from point-blank range. Coman soon tested Köln netminder Thomas Kessler, who deflected the ball, causing it to roll slowly along the goal-line and evade friend and foe alike before it was finally cleared.
Juan doubles before Franck seals it
The pattern was similar after the break, the first chance falling to the Billy Goats when Modeste picked up a bad pass by Bernat, but the Frenchman was closed down by Bayern's attentive rearguard. Ancelotti's troops upped the ante in response, and this time they made their dominance count early on, when a deflection helped Bernat overcome Kessler.
Danger returned to the Bayern box when Bernat and Osako collided before the ball was cleared. Ancelotti's men kept up the pressure, but failed to create anything of attacking note around the hour-mark before a short spell with Köln dominating proceedings 20 minutes from the end. Lewandowski got hold of the ball barely five yards from goal, but was called offside before Philipp Lahm blocked a Maroh header at the other end. Ribéry rounded off the scoreline when the game was virtually over, crashing home after strong groundwork by Thiago and Bernat.
The result means Bayern have 56 points from 23 matches, seven clear of RB Leipzig, who drew their match against Augsburg on Friday. The Reds are back in action on Tuesday, when they travel to face Arsenal in the Champions League last sixteen return leg before entertaining Frankfurt in the Bundesliga next Saturday.
Live match report for fcbayern.com by Greg Salmen
1. FC Köln - FC Bayern 0-3 (H-T: 0-1)
|1. FC Köln||
Kessler - Olkowski, Sörensen (Maroh 56), Subotic, Rausch - Höger (Jojic 73), Heintz - Clemens (Rudnevs 63), Zoller - Osako, Modeste
Müller, Klünter, Hartel, Ciftci
Neuer - Lahm, Martínez, Alaba, Bernat - Thiago, Vidal (Kimmich 73) - Coman (Rafinha 82), Müller, Costa (Ribéry 52) - Lewandowski
Ulreich, Hummels, Robben, Alonso
Dr Jochen Drees (Münster-Sarmsheim)
0-1 Martínez (25), 0-2 Bernat (48), 0-3 Ribéry (90)
Vidal (34), Bernat (80)