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Boateng’s comeback

Title champagne on ice as Reds held

Jerome Boateng made a long-awaited comeback but Bayern must wait at least one more matchday before celebrating an unprecedented fourth German championship in a row after the reshuffled Reds were held 1-1 at home by Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday, meaning the men from Munich are now five points ahead at the top of the league with two games to play.

It meant Pep Guardiola’s 100th Bundesliga match in charge proved a slight let down, but there is no time for inquests as the focus at the club turns to the crunch Champions League semi-final return at home to Atlético Madrid on Tuesday.

The 75,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Thomas Müller hand the home team a dream start with a sixth-minute opener, before the evenly-matched sides neutralised each other for long spells afterwards. FCB were holding on for victory but Germany international Andre Hahn equalised on the break after 72 minutes as the champions were held at home for the first time all season.

The result takes the Reds up to 82 points, five ahead of second-placed Dortmund with only two matches to play. The Bavarians return to action in the midweek European showdown, before the next chance to wrap up the league title in the trip to neighbours Ingolstadt next weekend.

Eight new faces

Bayern boss Guardiola made no fewer than eight changes to the team that fell narrowly to Atlético last Wednesday, with Philipp Lahm, Javi Martinez, David Alaba, Xabi Alonso, Arturo Vidal, Thiago, Douglas Costa and Robert Lewandowski all either rested or dropping to the bench.

Instead, the men in red started with Serdar Tasci, Mehdi Benatia, Rafinha, Sebastian Rode, Joshua Kimmich, Müller, Mario Götze – and Jerome Boateng, finally back in action after a three-month injury lay-off.

The champions-elect lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal, Tasci, Boateng and Benatia in a back three, Rafinha, Rode, Kimmich and Juan Bernat in midfield, and a front three of Kingsley Coman, Müller and Götze.

Thomas on target

After referee Daniel Siebert whistled play underway the home team settled fast despite their unfamiliar line-up and took a sixth-minute lead when Müller headed goalwards from a Kimmich corner, the ball finding its way unaided past visiting keeper Jan Sommer as Tasci stretched but failed to apply a touch.

The reds were content to sit on their lead for a while and fifth-placed Gladbach fashioned a couple of chances, but Neuer brilliantly saved Andre Hahn’s header from Raffael’s cross and Mo Dahoud blasted into the crowd. The sides cancelled each other out for very long spells now with much of the play confined to midfield.

Müller initiated Munich’s pre-interval offensive with a shot just a shade too close to Sommer, and Oscar Wendt almost put through his own goal from Coman’s whipped cross, but Neuer also had to look sharp in clearing the danger when Raffael and Wendt combined in the box on the stroke of half-time.

Pegged back after half-time

Sommer had to intervene twice in the opening exchanges of the second half to thwart Müller and Coman, but Gladbach were lively at times and Granit Xhaka smacked an opportunistic shot only just wide of Neuer’s goal.

Götze and comeback man Boateng gave way to Thiago and Alaba after the hour as FCB looked to shore up the result, but there was a let-off when Hahn came up inches short of sub Patrick Herrmann’s centre.

The visitors made better use of their next chance when Hahn latched onto sub Lars Stindl’s defence-splitting pass to level it up with a crisp shot after 72 minutes. Guardiola responded by sending on Douglas Costa for Tasci 13 minutes from time, the Brazilian immediately loosing off a shot but seeing it smothered by Sommer. Rode almost connected with Müller’s headed lay-off as the Reds upped the pressure at the end, but it was not to be and the championship champagne remains on ice for at least a week.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley