Sinsheim - Defending champions FC Bayern München moved to within two more wins of a 24th Bundesliga title following a workmanlike 2-0 victory at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.
The final scoreline perhaps flattered the visitors, who had Sebastian Rode and an Andreas Beck own goal to thank for the points.
Despite the raft of injuries to have swept through the side in recent weeks, Pep Guardiola’s makeshift starting line-up started brightly enough, with Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann gobbling up a low Juan Bernat delivery inside seven minutes. The former SC Freiburg custodian wasn’t quite as convincing when it came to dealing with another raking left-wing cross, but Mitchell Weiser was unable to make use of the loose ball.
Bayern were working the flanks well and really ought to have taken the lead in the 18th minute. Weiser swung over a telling ball for 16-goal striker Robert Lewandowski, who got right under it and headed over when it looked easier to score. The look of concern etched across the face of Guardiola as Bernat turned an ankle told a thousand words moments later, although the Spanish international was able to continue.
Rode on cue
Hoffenheim had offered little as an attacking unit, but almost went ahead when Dante misjudged Eugen Polanski’s defence-splitting pass for Modeste. The Frenchman ran clean through on goal, only to be denied by Neuer’s outstretched leg. Bayern served up the perfect response as Rode curled home his second of the season after Baumann had pulled off a fine low save to keep out Thomas Müller.
With a must-win UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg coming up against FC Porto in midweek, Guardiola was taking no chances with that earlier knock to Bernat, who was replaced at the break by Jerome Boateng. Hoffenheim had gone close late in the first half through a Volland header, but the visitors went closer still at the start of the second when a telling deflection off Beck took Lewandowski’s goalbound strike onto the crossbar.
Thiago Alcantara entered the fray at the expense of Gianluca Gaudino as Bayern stepped up their efforts to find a second goal. The Spanish midfielder’s first meaningful contribution was a dancing run and shot, which Baumann could only push back out into the danger zone, before scrambling across his line to thwart Müller with a brilliant diving save on the follow-up.
Hoffenheim had spent much of the half on the back foot, although they went mightily close to an equaliser when Volland sent a fierce 20-yard strike narrowly wide of the upright with 26 minutes still to play. Sebastian Rudy wasn't all that far away with a free-kick either, but the Bundesliga leaders had the final say as Beck turned Müller's cross into his own net in injury time.
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