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Vidal & Costa on target

Focused FCB need one more win for title

Bayern went into Saturday’s match away to Hertha Berlin with one hand on the Bundesliga Meisterschale, and although the title champagne remains on ice due to Dortmund’s win against Stuttgart in Saturday’s parallel fixture, the Reds’ 2-0 victory over fourth-placed Berlin means Pep Guardiola’s team now need only three points from their three remaining games to seal an unprecedented fourth German championship in a row. The result in the capital was also a boost to morale ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg clash away to Atletico Madrid.

The 76,203 full house at the Olympiastadion saw a relatively dour first half with almost nothing by way of clear-cut chances at either end, but Arturo Vidal opened the scoring for Guardiola’s reshuffled side with a deflected drive just three minutes after the restart. Douglas Costa cracked a glorious second 11 minutes from the end to give the scoreline a more realistic look and seal three deserved points.

The win, Bayern’s 26th from 31 matches this term, takes the Reds up to 81 points, seven ahead of second-placed Dortmund with three games left to play. Following the midweek clash in Madrid, the Bavarians will seek to wrap up the domestic league title once and for all with a win at home to long-standing rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach next Saturday.

Pep rotates – seven changes

Ahead of the trip to Madrid, Bayern boss Guardiola opted for wholesale rotation in the league and made seven changes to his line-up. The only survivors from the team that sealed a DFB Cup semi-final berth against Werder Bremen in midweek were Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski, with Rafinha, Serdar Tasci, Mehdi Benatia, Joshua Kimmich, Vidal, Thiago and Costa new in the starting line-up.

Pal Dardai’s Hertha featured two former FCB men, keeper Thomas Kraft and wide midfielder Mitchell Weiser, and lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Goalless first period

After referee Marco Fritz whistled play underway, the home team made a vigorous start but the visitors defended well and made the first opening, a Costa drive beaten out by Kraft. Tasci did well to block Weiser’s 10-yard shot as the match opened up midway through the half, with Kraft spreading himself to deny Thiago as the Spaniard thrust down the inside left channel.

The unfamiliar FCB line-up had settled well by the half-hour mark with full-backs Kimmich and Rafinha making useful incursions down the flanks and centre-backs Benatia and Tasci holding firm, although chances were still thin on the ground against Berlin’s tough-tackling defence. Peter Pekarik powered a cross-cum-shot wide of Neuer’s far post, 

Arturo’s opener

Whatever Guardiola said to his team at half-time had the immediate and desired effect when Vidal accepted Götze’s 48th-minute lay-off and blasted the champions-elect into the lead, the Chilean’s shot taking a deflection off Niklas Stark on its way into the net.

With the hour mark approaching David Alaba and Franck Ribery took over from Rafinha and Müller as Guardiola cast an eye forward to Wednesday. The men in red had the game better under control now and Kraft played with fire as he attempted a headed clearance well outside his own box, the keeper then saving a trifle fortunately at close-range from Lewandowski and dealing much more capably with Ribery’s header.

With the match moving towards its close, Costa had one more trick up his sleeve on 79 minutes with a fulminating 25-yard belter to double the lead and make absolutely certain of the points on an afternoon when the Reds deservedly moved another step closer to the championship crown.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley