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Bernat and Starke earn victory

Reds edge out feisty Darmstadt

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FC Bayern beat SV Darmstadt 1-0 on Saturday, the champions' tight victory sealing the brave bottom club's relegation from the top flight. After winning the Bundesliga last weekend, the Bavarians celebrated the title with the home crowd after a match in which Juan Bernat scored the match-winner after the quarter-hour, with keeper Tom Starke salvaging three points, saving a penalty in the closing stages.

The hosts started with Starke in goal and Rafinha, Jérôme Boateng, David Alaba and Bernat in a back four. Joshua Kimmich and Renato Sanches anchored a midfield featuring Thomas Müller in the playmaking role. The native Bavarian was flanked by Douglas Costa and Franck Ribéry, with Robert Lewandowski, who became a dad on Thursday, as lone striker.

Speaking of the youth, Sanches returned to the team, representing the next batch of Bavarian blood along with Joshua Kimmich, with reserves keeper Leo Weinkauf starting on the bench. The 20-year-old made it into the pro squad for the first time as Manuel Neuer and Sven Ulreich were both sidelined. Carlo Ancelotti comprehensively shuffled his deck, making seven changes to the team that saw off Wolfsburg. Sanches, Bernat, Boateng, Rafinha, Ribéry and Costa returned to the team, with Starke replacing Ulreich, who sustained an elbow injury on Friday, between the sticks.

Juan breaks the deadlock

The 75,000 capacity crowd at the Allianz Arena saw Ancelotti's troops begin on the front foot in a first quarter-hour long on aggression but short on chances. The hosts found the net by virtue of positional flexibility, when Ribéry fed the lurking Bernat in the box. The Spanish centre-back sidestepped two opponents to crash the ball into the top right corner of the net.

Visiting netminder Michael Esser soon performed miracles to deny Müller's header, but on the half-hour Darmstadt forward Felix Platte drew a fine save from Starke. Costa's long-range effort and a Lewandowski header went wide before seasoned match official Guido Winkmann blew for half-time.

A tale of two keepers

After the restart Lewandowski missed two chances in quick succession, seeing his first effort blocked and a header go wide. The visitors had the ball in the back of the net midway through the second half, but Sven Schipplock was ruled offside. Esser, who turned in a blistering display, pulled off another great save to deny a Lewandowski header before Ribéry failed to connect with a Müller cross.

By that time Starke had already shone when he crisply sidestepped the onrushing Platte, and he salvaged the home team's victory in the closing stages. He denied a 20-yarder before Bernet upended Schipplock in the box. Up stepped former FCB man Hamit Altintop, but Starke was not to be overcome on Saturday, diving low to keep the ball out. Ribéry shaved the post from point-blank range before Winkmann blew for full time.

The result means Bayern have 76 points from 32 matches, whereas Darmstadt are now certain to be relegated. The Bavarians are back in action next Saturday, when they travel to face RB Leipzig in a mouth-watering Bundesliga top clash.

Live match report for by Greg Salmen

FC Bayern - SV Darmstadt 98 1-0 (H-T: 1-0)

FC Bayern
Starke - Rafinha, Boateng, Alaba, Bernat - Kimmich (Alonso 67), Sanches - Costa, Müller, Ribéry - Lewandowski
Weinkauf - Hummels, Thiago, Robben, Lahm, Vidal
SV Darmstadt 98
Esser - Sirigu, Banggaard, Sulu, Holland - Kamavuaka (Rosenthal 80), Altintop - Heller, Gondorf, Vrancic (Sam 66) - Platte (Schipplock 59)

Heuer-Fernandes - Steinhöfer, Colak, Höhn

Guido Winkmann (Kerken)
Attendance 75,000 (capacity)
Goals 1-0 Bernat (18)
Yellow cards

Rafinha / Sirigu