It was a tough encounter and far from pretty, but FC Bayern München did enough to see off ten-man Werder Bremen at the Allianz Arena. Niko Kovač’s side dominated the game and created a number of opportunities against their old rivals, but it would take a defected effort from centre-back Niklas Süle to see them over the line.
With three hard-earned points in the bag, Bayern continue their drive for a seventh Bundesliga title on the bounce. The pressure is all on second-placed Borussia Dortmund, who are now four points in arrears with a tricky match in Freiburg to come.
The Bayern coach would have to make two enforced changes to his starting eleven, with skipper Manuel Neuer and centre-back Mats Hummels both out injured following last week’s victory against Fortuna Düsseldorf. Sven Ulreich was back between the sticks for the Bavarians, while Jérôme Boateng returned to the centre of the rejigged four-man back line.
Bremen had conceded no fewer than three dozen goals in their previous seven league visits to the Allianz Arena, but were determined to change the script this time around. Florian Kohfeldt’s were are unbeaten in 2019, and had scored at least once in every league game – the pressure was well and truly on.
Die Roten took their time to get going, with both sides offering little in what was rather flat opening twenty minutes. Bremen clearly had a game plan, and it was working. It took 26 minutes for Bayern to fashion the first opportunity, a well-timed effort from Serge Gnabry that was met by a fantastic reflex save from Bremen ‘keeper Jiří Pavlenka. Gnabry met Thiago Alcântara’s teasing cross with a sharp turn and shot, but the Czech was somehow able to stick out his right foot.
While Bayern huffed and puffed, their opponents were patient to bide their time. It all made for a rather tedious first half.
Second half improvement, Bremen reduced to ten
The coach must have dished out some harsh words during the break, as Bayern returned with a greater sense of purpose. There were more urgency and a clear uptick in tempo, and the chances started to come. Thiago and Robert Lewandowski both had half-chances inside the opening five minutes, and the impressive Gnabry had a solid effort blocked by Miloš Veljković (51).
Gnabry was the sharpest player in a red shirt, and after 54 minutes Pavlenka had to make another excellent save. The Bremen ‘keeper had to be at his best again to parry a Lewandowski effort, though the Polish striker should have done a lot better with the goal at his mercy.
Bremen had remained resolute despite being bombarded, but in the 58th minute there was a major swing towards the Bavarians. Veljković’s flailing aerial challenge on Niklas Süle was more clumsy than malicious, but the Serb was shown the yellow card by referee Tobias Welz. Having already been booked in the first half, the Serb had to make the lonely walk back to the dressing room.
With Bremen reduced to ten men, something surely had to give.
Süle breaks the deadlock
Bayern knew that they had to put their foot down, and there were more chances. After 70 minutes, it mush have felt like it was just going to be one of those days. Boateng did a wonderful impression of Coman before sending in a teasing cross towards Thomas Müller, who somehow managed to direct his header the wrong side of the far post.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, the breakthrough came. Thiago found Süle at the edge of the Bremen box, and the big centre-back’s shot took a wicked deflection off the sliding Davy Klaassen. Pavlenka had managed to keep Bayern at bay for so long, but was left completely helpless.
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A goal and a man to the good, it was a lot easier from that point on. Though it could and should have been better. Lewandowski pinged the top of the crossbar after 79 minutes, but missed a sitter five minutes later. It all added to the sense of tension, even though Bremen had nothing left to give.
Substitute Leon Goretzka floated a cheeky effort just wide in injury time, but there was a palpable sense of relief when the final whistle blew. It was the sort of solid result that wins league titles.
Bayern may have beaten Werder twice in the Bundesliga, but we haven’t seen the back of the northerners quite yet. Next up is the DFB-Pokal semi-final, and a rematch at the Weserstadion. Without the suspended hero Süle.
FC Bayern München – Werder Bremen 1:0 (1:0)
Süle 75. / –
FC Bayern: Ulreich – Kimmich, Süle, Boateng, Alaba – Martínez (59. Goretzka), Thiago – Gnabry (87. Renato Sanches), Müller (70. Ribéry) (), Coman – Lewandowski
Bremen: Pavlenka – Gebre Selassie, Veljković, Moisander, Augustinsson – Şahin (81. Pizarro) – Möhwald (60. Langkamp), M. Eggestein, Klaassen – Rashica (73. Osako), Kruse (c)
Referee: Tobias Welz (Wiesbaden)
Yellow Cards: – / Veljković 28., 58.
Red Cards: – / Veljković 58.
Shots: 28 / 3
Passes: 623 / 286
Completed Passes: 547 / 205
Pass Success: 88% / 72%
Possession: 69% / 31%
Fouls: 11 / 12
Offsides: 0 / 1
Corners: 14 / 3