Robben seals late Bayern win over valiant Mainz

Mainz - FC Bayern München ended 2014 on a winning note after Arjen Robben's 90th-minute strike gave them a 2-1 victory over a valiant 1. FSV Mainz 05.

Positive Mainz start

Kasper Hjulmand’s Mainz took the lead through Elkin Soto after 22 minutes, but the champions equalised with a brilliant Bastian Schweinsteiger free kick two minutes later. Mainz’s organisation repelled Bayern time and again during the second half, but Robben's late strike ensured they went into the winter break with a 14th win of the season under their belts.

Despite lining up against an FC Bayern side that had only conceded three goals all season, Hjulmand’s hosts began in a fearless fashion that would characterise their display. Pablo de Blasis had the ball in the net within four minutes, and although it was ruled out for offside, Mainz’s high-intensity style ruffled the champions in the opening 15 minutes, whose half-chances from Robben and the irrepressible Franck Ribery were easily repelled.

Mainz were on top, giving the champions no time to settle on the ball, and took the lead in the 22nd minute when Shinji Okazaki escaped the leash put on him by Jerome Boateng and Dante and supplied an inch-perfect cross for Soto, whose low finish went through the legs of Manuel Neuer. As if unable to countenance going behind for only the second time this season, the champions found a riposte two minutes later as Schweinsteiger sent a stunning free kick over the wall and into the top corner, leaving Loris Karius with no chance.

Bayern assert control

The equaliser resettled Pep Guardiola’s side, who began to look more like themselves. Their mesmeric retention of the ball shifted the play from side to side, but despite the best efforts of Robben and Thomas Müller, Mainz’s discipline foiled them time and again. Hjulmand’s side weren’t without chances of their own, either, as Yunus Malli capitalised on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s poor positioning only to chip his 40th-minute effort straight into the hands of Neuer.

Four minutes after the restart, Malli was again testing the Bayern keeper. Finding himself in behind and in a one-on-one position, the midfielder’s shot was too weak, and Neuer parried away confidently. Bayern countered brilliantly, and only a Daniel Brosinski clearance from a Robben cross prevented a goal. Mainz were still giving as good as they got, but as the hour-mark approached, Bayern’s superiority began to tell, as a Ribery cross was well turned away by Gonzalo Jara before the Frenchman struck a free kick into the wall from a promising position.

Robben seals it late

Malli’s chance was to prove Mainz’s last, as the champions continued to dominate proceedings. Similarly to the first half, their possession control was imposing, but led to little by the way of chances until the 69th minute. Boateng’s clever volley from a Robben corner was saved by Karius, before Hojbjerg’s rasping effort was diverted wide by Johannes Geis minutes later.

Robben came close in the 84th minute and when Karius denied Hojbjerg, it looked as though the home side were heading for at least a point as stoppage time approached. The Dutchman had the final say, however, taking advantage of the only split-second of insecurity in Mainz's defence to hammer home Juan Bernat's low cross and give the Bavarians a final victory of the year in the most dramatic of circumstances.

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