Ruthless Bayern ease past Leverkusen

Munich - FC Bayern München extended their lead at the Bundesliga summit to 23 points thanks to a 2-1 victory at home to Bayer 04 Leverkusen which leaves them potentially one win away from wrapping up the title.

Gilt-edged chance for Son

Mario Mandzukic broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time with a trademark header before Bastian Schweinsteiger's delicious free-kick gave the hosts some breathing room at the start of the second half. Stefan Kießling's injury-time header was too little too late for the visitors.

Pep Guardiola made several changes to the Bayern line-up, giving Philipp Lahm, Thiago, David Alaba and Franck Ribery a breather, but it made little difference to the Bavarians' flow, with the match very much one-way traffic towards Bernd Leno's goal in the opening stages. Yet despite setting up camp around the Leverkusen penalty area, Bayern could not weave their way through the visitors' compact defence.

In fact, it was Leverkusen who had the best chance to break the deadlock after just 11 minutes. Stefan Kießling's threaded pass freed Heung-Min Son on the edge of the six-yard box, but with only Manuel Neuer to beat the South Korean forward dragged his shot wide of the post. It was only a rare lapse from the hosts, who swiftly resumed possession of the ball, teasing their visitors in midfield but coming up against a robust defence whenever they edged to within 30 yards of Leno's goal.


Shortly before the half-hour mark, Leverkusen had another decent effort, with Simon Rolfes striking a powerful first-time shot from distance which the Germany No1 did well to tip over. Leverkusen continued to have half-chances on the counterattack, with the pace of Gonzalo Castro and Son causing Bayern's high backline a few headaches, but there was a sense of inevitability when Mandzukic leapt above Philipp Wollscheid at the back post to head in Schweinsteiger's looping cross just before the break.

Schweinsteiger got his own name on the scoresheet within minutes of the restart when he curled an unstoppable free-kick from the edge of the area over the wall and past a helpless Leno. The goal knocked the wind out of Leverkusen, who no longer showed the same verve going forward, instead seemingly concentrating their efforts on damage limitation at the back.

On auto-pilot

The hosts shifted down a few gears after that, happy to pass the ball around midfield without needing to push for another goal. Sidney Sam's introduction gave Sami Hyypiä's charges an extra spark for a while, with Neuer forced to sprint far off his line to deny the attacker, but that was one of only a handful of Leverkusen forward forays in the second period.

Leno was called into action again late on, saving superbly from a fierce Franck Ribery drive, before Kießling grabbed a consolation just before the final whistle, heading in a looping cross to the back post. It was not enough to prevent Bayern continuing their unstoppable march towards the Bundesliga title, which could be theirs with victory over 1. FSV Mainz 05 next Saturday.

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