Guardiola joy as Bayern go top

AFP, BERLIN

Mon, Oct 07, 2013 - Page 19

Pep Guardiola was delighted as Bayern Munich went top of the Bundesliga with a 1-1 draw at Bayer Leverkusen, a result which also nudged them closer to breaking a 30-year record.

“Congratulations to my players, we’re first in the table and I’m very, very proud of our performance,” coach Guardiola said as Bayern topped the German league for the first time since he took charge in June.

“We gave everything and played very well. Nevertheless, we didn’t win, despite having 27 shots on goal — that’s football, but the most important thing is that we’re top of the table,” he said.

Bayern extended their unbeaten run to 33 Bundesliga games and are closing in on Hamburg’s record of 36, set in 1983, as the Bavarians returned to the site of their last league defeat in October last year. Previous leaders Borussia Dortmund lost top place after suffering a shock 2-0 defeat at Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Dortmund dropped to second place, a point behind Bayern, and level on 19 points with third-placed Leverkusen.

In a high-tempo clash at Leverkusen’s BayArena, Germany midfielder Sidney Sam’s 31st-minute equalizer for the hosts came straight after Toni Kroos’ opening goal for Bayern.

Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno guaranteed a point for his side by denying French star Franck Ribery twice in as many second-half minutes, then Mario Goetze, while Thomas Mueller had a penalty appeal turned down.

“I had expected that I had a lot to do, because Bayern are an elite side,” Leno said. “For a goalkeeper, games like this are great as they are a chance to show what you can do.”

“From a playing perspective, we have to acknowledge that we are still some way from Bayern,” he said. “Despite that, I have to pay the team a huge compliment, we fought like lions and earned the point, even if it was a bit lucky.”

Bayern took the lead when Ribery found Kroos on the edge of the area and the attacking midfielder blasted home.

Leverkusen drew level when Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer parried Poland defender Sebastian Boenisch’s shot, but the rebound fell to Sam to tap home into an empty net.

Bayern dominated possession — nearly 80 percent — but were continually frustrated by some determined defending.

Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger had a late header cleared off the line, while Leverkusen’s Son Heung-min blasted wide with the final shot of the game.

Fresh from their impressive 3-0 Champions League win over Marseille, Dortmund were set to claim an away point until a disastrous final 10-minute spell.

Mats Hummels earned a red card on 81 minutes with a reckless challenge on ’Gladbach midfielder Havard Nordtveit in the area which left referee Manuel Graefe.

Max Kruse netted the resulting penalty, then Raffael hit their second four minutes from time to see ’Gladbach move up to fourth.