Munich - FC Bayern München were unable to reproduce the scintillating performance that eliminated FC Porto from the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, but they nevertheless edged closer to securing the Bundesliga title with a narrow 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin.
Hertha go close
The match looked to be heading for a goalless draw after chances at either end had been spurned, only for Mitchell Weiser to produce a stunning assist for Bastian Schweinsteiger to rifle in a late winner.
Having played in midweek and with another fixture coming up on Tuesday, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola opted to rest some of his key players, leaving all five of the Spaniards on the club’s books on the bench, and fielding youngsters Gianluca Gaudino and Mitchell Weiser in midfield. It made little difference to the flow of the game, however, with the hosts dominating possession and forcing Hertha to defend deep.
The visitors’ game plan was clear: to break forward quickly and do damage on the counterattack. They had two decent opportunities early on, with Dante forced into a rushed clearance that narrowly missed his own goal, before Valentin Stocker arrived a moment too late to connect with Nico Schulz’s cross from the left.
Neuer to the rescue
Bayern continued to probe forward but without the same sense of purpose as in previous encounters and therefore had difficulty getting behind Hertha’s superbly drilled backline. Gaudino went closest to picking holes in the visiting defence with his superb passing over the top, but the capital club managed to clear each time, leaving the game scoreless at the break.
Schulz had a glorious opportunity to change that at the start of the second period when, running from his own half, he latched onto Stocker’s clever through ball to go one-on-one with Manuel Neuer. However, the Bayern No1 made an incredible stop with his arm and deflected the ball over for a corner, which came to nothing.
Schweinsteiger saves the day
Guardiola handed 18-year-old Sinan Kurt his Bundesliga debut and the midfielder looked lively on the right wing. Indeed, it was from his corner that Bayern nearly scored, only for Schweinsteiger to miscue his shot from close-range. Jerome Boateng tested Sascha Burchert shortly afterwards with a long-distance strike the Hertha keeper did well to keep hold of.
Bayern increased the pressure as the game entered the closing stages, however, with Robert Lewandowski denied by a fantastic point-blank save from Burchert, before Schweinsteiger grazed the post with a header. The midfielder had the final say, though, driving a shot in from 15 yards after Weiser had skipped past four Hertha defenders on the right flank.
Line-ups and statistics
Jonathan Stockitt reporting from the Allianz Arena