Munich - FC Bayern München sealed top spot in the Bundesliga going into 2014 with a 3-1 win at home to a spirited Hamburger SV on Saturday.
Mario Mandzukic and Mario Götze gave Bayern a two-goal cushion, but after coach Pep Guardiola made three energy-saving substitutions, Pierre-Michel Lasogga struck to set up a grandstand finish. However, Xherdan Shaqiri had the last say with a third, as the league leaders equalled their record of collecting 44 points before the winter break.
Without the injured Rene Adler, Jaroslav Drobny deputised between the posts for Hamburg, who welcomed their captain Rafael van der Vaart back after a month on the sidelines. The Dutchman did not need long to have an impact on the game, albeit not such a positive one as his name was the first on the referee's notebook after less than two minutes. Drobny followed two minutes later before HSV got a measure of their hosts.
In spite of their usual abundance of possession, Bayern lacked incision, although credit also had to be given to Hamburg's midfielders, who harried and hassled their opponents with Van der Vaart not afraid to get back to lend a hand either. When the hosts found a way through, Mandzukic was unable to get the ball under full control as his close range shot was blocked. Thiago Alcantara then tested Drobny from further out as the hosts continued to be held at arm's length.
Considering Hamburg conceded nine on their last visit to the Allianz Arena, and Bayern had put seven past SV Werder Bremen on Matchday 15, reaching the interval unscathed would already have been an achievement for Bert van Marwijk's men, yet they fell two minutes short of that milestone. Rafinha reached the goal line and managed to scoop the ball across to Mandzukic, who showed great strength to hold off his marker and head in from six yards out for his tenth of the season.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga, due to celebrate his 22nd birthday on Sunday, was keen to make a mark as he sent two shots towards Manuel Neuer's goal, but when it seemed like the northern Germany side were set to make a game of it, Bayern doubled their lead. Thiago chipped the ball into the penalty area for Götze, who with two delightful touches, that prevented the ball reaching the ground, turned and shot past Drobny.
Former Bayern full-back Marcell Jansen nearly reduced the arrears with a shot which moved in the air and drew a great save out of Neuer while Lasogga again went close for the visitors. Bayern moved down the gears and Guardiola started to make changes. Ribery was brought on for Götze and Xherdan Shaqiri replaced Thomas Müller. Pierre Höjbjerg then gave Toni Kroos a break in view of the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup.
The move nearly backfired when Jansen teed up Lasogga to get the goal he was looking for, drilling a shot into the roof of the net from level with the penalty spot. However, Bayern never looked at any risk of conceding an equaliser and Shaqiri slotted in a third as they took the points, giving them the unofficial title of autumn champions with one game to spare before the winter break, and setting them up well for their trip to Morocco next week.
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