Two goals by Mario Mandzukic (r.) turned the game on its head after Bayern had fallen behind early on
Two goals by Mario Mandzukic (r.) turned the game on its head after Bayern had fallen behind early on

Super Marios edge Bayern past Hertha

Munich - FC Bayern München and Hertha Berlin produced an outstanding game of football at the Allianz Arena as the reigning Bundesliga champions ran out 3-2 winners.

Guardiola shows his genius

Hertha’s Colombian striker Adrian Ramos gave the visitors an early lead, but goals from Pep Guardiola’s first-half substitutes Mario Mandzukic and Mario Götze put the Bavarians 3-1 ahead. Hertha responded through Anis Ben-Hatira in the 58th minute, but it wasn't quite enough for Jos Luhukay's team, as Bayern retained top spot in the Bundesliga.

Despite boasting over 2,000 Bundesliga appearances between them, Bayern's experienced side were caught cold after only five minutes by a hard-working, energetic Hertha Berlin. Ramos, who had shown his strength in the opening exchanges, found himself unmarked on the six-yard line following a Per Skjelbred corner and nodded past a stricken Manuel Neuer. Bayern, clearly shocked at going behind so early, almost fell further behind when Ben-Hatira chipped a stranded Neuer only to see his 30-yard effort come back off the bar.

The record titleholders were struggling to take control and coach Guardiola reacted accordingly, as Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben were replaced by Götze and Mandzukic after 25 minutes. With the hosts reverting to a 4-2-3-1, there was immediately a noticeable improvement, as Götze slotted in behind Mandzukic, who headed home the equaliser less than five minutes later, nodding in at the back post from Franck Ribery’s free-kick.

The Marios strike

Guardiola’s changes had woken Bayern from their slumber, with Götze repeatedly squirming his way into the box, while Alaba struck the wall with a thundering free-kick just before the break. Ramos and Ben-Hatira, so influential early on, were suddenly isolated up top for the visitors, while defensive duo Sebastien Langkamp and Fabian Lustenberger were doing their best to keep Mandzukic at bay, as the sides went in level at the break.

Bayern’s midfield maintained their control on proceedings after the restart and, led by the irrepressible Götze and Bastian Schweinsteiger, produced a well-earned second goal after 51 minutes. A Schweinsteiger free-kick from just inside the Hertha half wasn’t cleared and Mandzukic again rose highest to head the ball past a flailing Kraft. It was a similar story four minutes later with Rafinha curling in a cross from the right-hand side towards Götze, who was able to direct his header beyond the Hertha keeper.

Martinez in control

Hertha’s early threat hadn’t been eradicated completely, however, as Tolga Cigerci forced Neuer into a good near-post save after 58 minutes. Fortunately for the visitors, however, the looping rebound was headed in by Ben-Hatira from inside the six-yard box to make it 3-2. The introduction of Javi Martinez for Müller in the 64th minute provided a platform for Bayern to retake control of the contest and take the sting out of Hertha. Their subsequent dominance led to numerous chances to increase their lead in the latter stages.

Schweinsteiger struck over from close-range after 69 minutes, while a Ribery backheel so nearly snuck in at the near-post with 83 minutes on the clock. Despite the odd scare from an impressive and fearless Hertha side, it was Guardiola’s substitutes, Mandzukic and Götze who led Bayern to victory, and ensured they maintained their one-point lead over Borussia Dortmund and Bayer 04 Leverkusen.

Line-ups and statistics

Daniel Thacker reporting from the Allianz Arena

Check out the rise and rise of FC Bayern supremo Pep Guardiola on the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: