FC Bayern München took another step towards defending their Bundesliga title with a 3-1 victory away to VfB Stuttgart on Saturday.
VfB Stuttgart 1-3 FC Bayern München
With an eye on Wednesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg away to SL Benfica, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola rested a number of first-team regulars but his side nevertheless dominated possession early on. However, it was the hosts who had the first clear chance as Daniel Didavi's flick from Filip Kostic's cross drew a fine point-blank save by Manuel Neuer. Bayern eventually edged ahead, though, when Georg Niedermeier inadvertently turned Franck Ribery's left-wing cross into his own net.
There was far greater urgency from the visitors after the break and they soon doubled their advantage, with David Alaba finishing superbly from a tight angle. Yet the home side refused to let their heads hang and pulled a goal back thanks to an audacious dink from Didavi while lying on the ground. It set up a gripping finale as Stuttgart pushed for an equaliser, but substitute Douglas Costa scored a sublime third late on to bank three more points in Bayern's pursuit of another Bundesliga crown.
Man of the match
Ribery was only making his ninth Bundesliga appearance this term following a lengthy injury battle, but the Frenchman was outstanding once again. He forced the opening goal with a lovely bit of skill and his overall contribution was excellent, completing 85 per cent of his passes and making more sprints (35) than anyone else.
In recent weeks Bayern have proven they can thrive under pressure. Guardiola's troops are still on course for the treble this season and with the fixtures coming thick and fast they are still able to grind out victories without necessarily being at their best.
- Neuer made his 156th Bundesliga appearance for Bayern here, exactly the same number he made for former club FC Schalke 04.Alaba scored for the first time in over a year: his last goal was on 14 March 2015 against SV Werder Bremen.Didavi now has 11 Bundesliga goals this season.
Stuttgart: Tyton – Klein, Sunjic, Schwaab, Niedermeier, Insua – Werner, Didavi, Rupp (Tashchy 75'), Kostic - Kravets
Coach: Jürgen Kramny
Bayern: Neuer – Kimmich (Costa 75'), Martinez, Alaba – Rafinha, Alonso, Bernat – Götze (Thiago 69'), Vidal (Müller 27'), Ribery - Lewandowski
Coach: Pep Guardiola