presented by
Ten points clear

Lewy at the double as Reds close on title

Bayern go into Tuesday’s win-or-bust DFB Cup semi-final against Werder Bremen with their spirits high after Saturday’s convincing 3-0 Bundesliga victory over Schalke, taking the Reds a giant stride closer to a fourth league title in a row as the men from Munich are now ten points clear at the top of the standings with only four games to play.

The 75,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Pep Guardiola’s team frustrated in a first half virtually shorn of chances as the Royal Blues effectively parked the proverbial bus on the edge of their own box. The home team hit the gas after the break and Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring with a clinical finish on 54 minutes, the Pole completing his brace with a header 11 minutes later. Arturo Vidal made it three a quarter-hour from time to wrap up what was ultimately a comfortable and merited victory.

Win number 25 from 30 matches takes the Reds up to 78 points, ten ahead of second-placed Dortmund prior to the black-and-yellows’ meeting with Hamburg on Sunday. Following the cup clash with Bremen, the Bavarians are back in league action next Saturday away to high-flying Hertha Berlin.

Götze and Benatia from the off

Bayern boss Guardiola made no fewer than six changes to the team that sealed a Champions League semi-final berth courtesy of a 2-2 midweek draw away to Benfica, with Rafinha, Mehdi Benatia, Juan Bernat, Kingsley Coman, Mario Götze and Lewandowski coming into the starting line-up.

Of the men they replaced, Thiago, Franck Ribery, Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich began on the bench, with Xabi Alonso and Javi Martinez omitted from the squad on this occasion.

The champions lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, David Alaba, Benatia, and Bernat in the back four, Philipp Lahm and Vidal in central midfield, Costa and Coman out wide, and Götze and Lewandowski up front.

Goalless at the break

After referee Tobias Welz whistled play underway, Costa swept an early chance just wide of visiting keeper Ralf Fährmann’s left-hand upright, but the Royal Blues set out their defensive stall and the only other opening in the first 20 minutes saw Coman come up just short of Bernat’s cross-cum-shot from the left.

A further ten minutes had been played before Lewandowski drew an excellent diving save from Fährmann with a firm header, but Schalke responded with a couple of efforts of their own, Benatia just nicking the ball off Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s toe with the striker poised to slot home and the same player directing a header straight down Neuer’s throat.

FCB upped the pace in the run-up to the interval but Costa’s cross was just a shade too high for Lewandowski and Lahm failed to connect with a Rafinha pass as the first period ended goalless.

Lewy’s quickfire brace

The league leaders set off into the second half with fire in their bellies, Coman going unrewarded for a rapid dribble by shooting straight at Fährmann, Lahm volleying wide, Götze also aiming too close to the Schalke keeper, and Vidal missing the target by mere inches with a skidding drive.

Fährmann was a busy man now with a great save to deny Costa, but there was no stopping Lewandowski’s superb shot on the turn to open the scoring after 54 minutes from Vidal’s towering headed lay-off. FCB kept up the pressure and Lewandowski doubled his and his team’s tally in the 65th minute with a powerful header from Rafinha’s pinpoint cross.

Kimmich and Ribery replaced Benatia and Costa for the last quarter of the game, and the Frenchman made an immediate impact with the lay-off for Vidal to stab home Bayern’s third on 73 minutes. Guardiola made his final change a few minutes later with Sebastian Rode taking over from Vidal as the champions-elect closed out their 25th league win of the campaign.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley