FC Bayern overcome sluggish start to see off doomed Hannover

After last week’s messy slip-up in Nürnberg, FC Bayern München made no mistake against another struggling opponent. Doomed Hannover 96 were able to hold out for the first half hour at the Allianz Arena, but it was easy going for the Bavarians once they had broken the deadlock.

Aided by a spectacular comeback by Werder Bremen in Dortmund, Niko Kovač’s men are four points in front with two matches to play. It means that a win in Leipzig next week will give them their 29th Bundesliga title – and seventh on the spin.

Lewy breaks the deadlock

In looking to step things up after dropping two crucial points in Nürnberg, Bayern coach Niko Kovač went for a more attacking line-up. The injured Javi Martínez was replaced by Serge Gnabry, while Mats Hummels was benched in favour of Jérôme Boateng.

Bayern’s start was far from impressive, and the first chance fell to Hannover’s Japanese international Genji Haraguchi after five minutes. The sluggish Bavarians, urged on by yours truly and the remainder of the 75,000 capacity crowd, slowly started to find their rhythm. Both Kingsley Coman and Robert Lewandowski were unable to beat Michael Esser, and the H96 ‘keeper did well to parry a Thomas Müller effort.

As the contest approach the half-hour mark, a red storm had started to brew. Joshua Kimmish’s perfect cross found Lewandowski in space after 26 minutes, and the Pole made no mistake as he headed the Bavarians in front from just five yards out.

Goretzka doubles the advantage

Lewandowski’s goal gave the home side the shot in the arm they needed, and finally this looked like a contest between a team chasing the title and another scrapping for dear life at the other end of the table. Esser denied Müller again, and moments later did well to keep out a long-distance effort from Boateng.

It was a case of when Bayern would score next rather than if, and five minutes before half-time the crowd could afford to relax a little. Esser had kept Hannover in the contest, but could do little to stop Leon Goretzka. The defensive midfielder was allowed far too much space outside the box, and had plenty of time to line up his shot and find the target from twenty yards.

Bayern’s opponents were out on their feet, and the game could have been put beyond doubt before the break. Goretzka had two great opportunities to score, but saw his first shot blocked before a second effort clattered the crossbar. In between, Coman fizzed a shot narrowly wide.

The Jonathas Show

If the first half had largely followed the script, the opening ten minutes after the break came completely out of the blue. As at the start, Bayern were slow to get into their stride – but this time Hannover were able to take advantage. Having first turned down a handball shout against Boateng, referee Christian Dingert called for a video review.

The replays suggested it it was more a case of ball to hand rather than the other way around, but the official pointed to the penalty spot anyway. Given an unexpected and somewhat undeserved lifeline, the Lower Saxons made the most of it. Having started the second half off the bench, Brazilian Jonathas slotted the ball past Sven Ulreich.

Hannover were back in with a shout, and Jonathas went to retrieve the ball from the back of the net. Ulreich was not having any of it, and the Brazilian reacted by pushing the Bayern ‘keeper. Dinger quickly brandished the yellow card.

The Jonathas show ended just three minutes later, courtesy of a flailing elbow that caught Kimmich. It looked a little soft, but there was little doubt what referee Dingert was going to do next. The yellow card was out again, followed by the inevitable Rot.

Ribéry wraps it up

The final act of Jonathas’ ten minute cameo should have eased matters for Bayern, but the hunt for that clinching goal was more fraught that it should have been. Esser was again in great form as he parried a couple of long-range efforts from David Alaba, and the home crowd would have to wait until six minutes from time before Die Roten hit their third.

Having replaced the quiet Serge Gnabry, it was left to crowd favourite Franck Ribéry to make sure of the points. Not surprisingly, the Frenchman’s finish brought the biggest cheers of the afternoon.

With the points safely in the bag, the home crowd got to see the returning Arjen Robben, back in action after five long months out through injury. The Dutchman had enough time to set up Müller, but once again Esser was right on the spot to deny Der Raumdeuter.

It had not been a world-beating performance from Bayern, but they were far too much of a challenge for the visitors. Were it not for the excellent Esser, the score could have been a lot more convincing. With second-placed Borussia Dortmund blowing a two-goal lead in Bremen, the Bavarians now have a four-point cushion with two match days remaining.

The best part? Former Bayern hero Claudio Pizarro netting Bremen’s equaliser.

Statistical Summary

FC Bayern München – Hannover 96 3:1 (2:0)
Lewandowski 27., Goretzka 40., Ribéry 84. / Jonathas pen 52.

FC Bayern: Ulreich – Kimmich, Süle, Boateng, Alaba (88. Rafinha) – Thiago – Müller (c), Goretzka – Gnabry (71. Ribéry), Coman (86. Robben) – Lewandowski

Hannover: Esser – Sorg, Anton, Felipe (70. Wimmer), Albornoz – Schwegler (c), Ostrzolek – Haraguchi, Walace, Maina (88. Prib) – Weydandt (46. Jonathas)

Referee: Christian Dingert (Gries)
Attendance: 75,000

Yellow Cards: – / Jonathas 52., 55.
Red Cards: – / Jonathas 55.

Shots: 27 / 2
Passes: 711 / 310
Completed Passes: 641 / 226
Pass Success: 90% / 73%
Possession: 70% / 30%
Fouls: 10 / 5
Offsides: 1 / 2
Corners: 11 / 0