Braunschweig - Champions FC Bayern München ended a run of three games without a win with an ultimately comfortable 2-0 victory at bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig.
Despite dominating possession for long periods, the Reds created little against a determined Eintracht outfit, until Claudio Pizarro and Mario Mandzukic grabbed well-taken goals in the final fifteen minutes. Bayern remain 17 points ahead of second-placed Borussia Dortmund, but time is running out for Torsten Lieberknecht’s Braunschweig, who remain three points off safety with just as many games left to play.
Pep Guardiola continued his policy of rotation for the game, although his hand was forced somewhat, with the Spaniard only naming six substitutes. Philipp Lahm replaced the suspended Rafinha at right-back, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg coming into midfield and Jerome Boateng filling in for the injured David Alaba at left-back, the first time he had started a game in that position since the 2010 World Cup semi-final for Germany against Spain.
It was a strong eleven no doubt, but the Bavarians struggled to exert their authority on proceedings in the early stages. The home side’s pressing, even in the beaming Lower Saxon sunshine, was relentless, with the visitors often conceding possession after being forced into long balls. On twelve minutes, Franck Ribery did manage to break the offside trap and square for Arjen Robben, but Ken Reichel was able to prevent a certain goal with a brilliant intervention.
Ribery dragged an effort wide and Robben curled another over the crossbar, but by far the best chance fell to Hojbjerg, who blazed over after great work from Boateng. Braunschweig were not without their own opportunities, though, with Jan Hochscheidt glancing a header wide and then firing over the top with the Reds’ defence backing off.
Guardiola would have been hoping for a second-half improvement from his team ahead of next week’s trip to Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Champions League, but the pattern of the game remained much the same after the restart, with the hosts, backed by superb support, biting into every challenge. Daniel Davari was largely a spectator until the 61st minute, when he did well to hold on to Hojbjerg’s effort from distance.
Bayern too strong
Eintracht began to drop deeper as the half progressed, however, and after Guardiola had made his first set of changes, the men from Munich finally made the breakthrough. With 14 minutes to play, the newly introduced Thomas Müller found Mario Götze, who rolled a simple pass into the path of Pizarro, with the Peruvian send a classy left-foot finish high into the net.
Visibly fatigued, Braunschweig attempted to fight back, but they were finished off with four minutes remaining when stand-in keeper Lukas Raeder’s long-ball found another substitute Mario Mandzukic, who slotted beneath Davari’s legs to set the seal on the Reds’ 26th win of the campaign.
Line-ups and statistics
Check out Claudio Pizarro's goal against Braunschweig, as well as Matchday 31's other top strikes, courtesy of the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: