Thomas Müller (l.) netted the winner for Bayern against a plucky Hoffenheim side
Thomas Müller (l.) netted the winner for Bayern against a plucky Hoffenheim side

Bayern edge out brave Hoffenheim

Sinsheim - FC Bayern München returned to the top of the Bundesliga table after a 2-1 victory away at 1899 Hoffenheim, but they were made to work hard for the points after a courageous display from the hosts.

Hoffenheim quick out of the blocks

Niklas Süle usurped ex-1899 loanee David Alaba as Hoffenheim’s youngest-ever Bundesliga scorer with a first-half effort, but Mario Mandzukic restored parity moments later. In the second period, both sides had chances, but it was the Bavarians that made theirs count, with Thomas Müller stabbing in a scruffy effort as the home side began to tire. Bayern - unbeaten in the top flight against Hoffenheim, winning eight and drawing three - have now equalled Hamburger SV’s long-standing record of going 36 Bundesliga games unbeaten.

Bayern had seen rivals Borussia Dortmund return to the top of the table after beating VfB Stuttgart on Friday night, but they endured a frustrating opening as Hoffenheim got in amongst them at the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena. Anthony Modeste brushed Philipp Lahm off the ball to set up an attack for Kai Herdling, before Roberto Firmino’s pass eluded the run of Kevin Volland.

Bayern’s passing had been sloppy, but with a quarter of an hour gone, they turned on the style and might have gone three goals up in the blink of an eye. Lahm was denied when Koen Casteels stood strong at the near post, Müller saw a fierce drive palmed away and Mandzukic side-footed wide from Alaba’s cross.

Neuer mistake

As the half-hour mark approached, Hoffenheim had been pushed back to the edge of their own penalty box, with the visitors dominating possession and creating chance after chance. Javi Martinez, Müller and Franck Ribery all missed presentable opportunities, for which Bayern were made to pay when Neuer misjudged a corner at the other end to allow Süle to fire home the opener. Pep Guardiola’s men fought back well, however, and were level when Mandzukic diverted Ribery’s low free-kick into the corner.

Hoffenheim might have considered themselves unfortunate to concede an equaliser in the manner in which they did, but there was little respite for Markus Gisdol’s team after the restart as Dante drifted a header over the bar, and then lost his footing at the crucial moment. The hosts were defending bravely, though, as well as retaining a threat on the break, and former TSV 1860 Munich striker Volland should have done better that to volley over from Sebastian Rudy’s exquisite pass.

Müller wins it

Guardiola had withdrawn Mandzukic in place of Toni Kroos, but it was a tactic that didn’t look to be paying immediate dividends. As is so often the case with the Reds, however, they continued to probe and after wearing the hosts down, they took the lead. Andreas Beck produced a superb challenge to deny Götze in front of goal, but then made a mess of the clearance, and Ribery poked the ball free for Müller to steer home.

It was cruel on the hosts, but further proof of Bayern’s mental strength and their reward for a relentless period of possession. Gisdol’s charges, unsurprisingly, had begun to tire and Müller should have made it three instead of heading wastefully wide from Rafinha’s inviting cross.

Bernie Reeves

Line-ups and statistics

Take a closer look at the record that Bayern's Franck Ribery broke recently, courtesy of the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: