Mon, Apr 21, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Below-par Bayern end league slump as Real semi looms

AFP, BERLIN

Bayern Munich supporters celebrate after their Bundesliga match against Eintracht Braunschweig in Braunschweig, central Germany, on Saturday. Bayern Munich won 2-0.

Photo: AFP

Bayern Munich snapped a run of three Bundesliga games without a victory on Saturday with an unimpressive 2-0 win at bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig, four days before their Champions League semi-final at Real Madrid.

Peru veteran Claudio Pizarro, 35, and Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic were on target with late goals in what was only Bayern’s third win in their past seven games in all competitions.

Despite enjoying their customary 65 percent possession and fielding a near full-strength team, Bayern needed 76 minutes to breach the Braunschweig defense, with the hosts battling to preserve their top-flight status.

The breakthrough came when Mario Goezte found Pizarro and he scored Bayern’s first goal in their past three league games.

With die Lowen’s defense tiring, Mandzukic grabbed their second three minutes from time as Bayern won their first league match since claiming the title nearly four weeks ago with a record seven games to spare.

However, as in their recent consecutive defeats to Augsburg and Borussia Dortmund, Bayern looked lethargic at the Eintracht-Stadion, despite coach Pep Guardiola’s pre-match wish for a polished performance so the squad can take a “good feeling” to Madrid.

“It’s not easy for us after winning the German title, but we fought, despite a difficult situation” Guardiola said. “Braunschweig fought with heart and passion, which didn’t make life easy for us. We had the game under more control after the break and I’m happy with the win, nut we won’t reach the Champions League final unless we put in a commanding performance against Real Madrid.”

Bayern were without Manchester United-target Toni Kroos and Rafinha, who were both suspended, while leftback David Alaba was missing with a cold.

Germany goalkeeper Manuer Neuer sat out the trip to Braunschweig as he recovers from a calf injury, with reserve shot-stopper Lukas Raeder stepping in for the third time.

The victory left Bayern on 81 points and 17 points clear of second-placed Dortmund, who picked up their fifth straight win on Saturday with a 4-2 victory at home to 10-man FSV Mainz 05.

The clash pitted Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp against his former side, who he coached from 2001 to 2008, and his side took the lead after just six minutes through a curious goal when Milos Jojic’s strike went in off the upper arm of Dortmund’s Oliver Kirch.

Despite furious protests, the goal stood and Japan striker Shinji Okazaki then scored twice for Mainz to make it 2-2. The Japanese international scored on either side of Bayern-bound Robert Lewandowski’s strike for Dortmund and netted his second after pouncing on a terrible back pass from Dortmund’s Nuri Sahin.

Die Schwarzgelben then grabbed the three points needed to confirm their direct qualification for the Champions League with goals from defender Lukasz Piszczek and Germany winger Marco Reus, who converted a penalty 12 minutes from time after Mainz had centerback Niko Bungert sent off for a handball.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, 10-man VfL Wolfsburg took a step toward a Champions League berth with a 3-1 win at relegation-threatened Hamburg SV to leapfrog Bayer 04 Leverkusen into fourth place.

Goals by Ivan Perisic, Kevin de Bruyne and Ivica Olic gave die Wolfe a 3-0 lead just after the break, before Hamburg’s Ivo Ilicevic scored a consolation for the hosts, who remain third from bottom in the tables.

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