Bayern skate past Hoffenheim with late Müller winner

Thorsten Wagner

Reds tie HSV's record for matches without defeat, remain atop the Bundesliga with a narrow victory in Sinsheim.

It wasn't convincing, and it wasn't pretty. It wasn't exactly memorable or odd, but it was three points. And like with Hertha last week, we found out that there are plenty of things to be afraid of when facing Hoffenheim when they get to dictate the pace of the match.

First half saw stretches of attacking football being played from both teams, with Hoffenheim becoming most dangerous after tactical change around the quarter-hour mark.

The 1899'ers started the match with the intention of playing much like Hertha did last week, freely and openly with plenty of attacking, but lacked the tactical foundation to do so early on.

Instead of getting numbers forward on attacks, they had the entirety of their midfield and forward players chasing the ball about the pitch to little or no success.

Bayern were happy to be patient at this stage of the match and quietly probed forward on several occaisions, nearly getting goals from Lahm, Müller and Martinez.

Javi Martinez, making his first start back from injury, was solid in the midfield along with Bastian Schweinsteiger. His inclusion meant that Philipp Lahm's time in the pivot is likely over for the most part, as he was transitioned back to his customary position on the right side of defense.

Dante also made his return, and not a moment too soon for the Bavarians after last week's dismal backline performance against Hertha.

As the match wore on, and Hoffenheim became more organized, they became more dangerous as well.

18-year-old Niklas Süle put the villagers on top off a corner after 34 minutes that wasn't taken care of by Neuer as many thought it should have been. The cross itself sailed just over the fingertips of the jumping white and infrared-clad Bayern goalkeeper before falling to Süle who had no trouble scoring.

Though many blamed Neuer for the error, not incorrectly, David Alaba and Jerome Boateng should have been marking Süle and not totally relying on Neuer to take care of the cross alone.

Bayern regrouped and had some chances of their own in the following minutes before drawing a free kick just outside of the box in the 39th minute.

Ribery, with no Robben on the field due to injury, was the first choice to take the set play. His attempt took a major deflection off of Mario Mandzukic, leaving Hoffenheim goalkeeper Koen Casteels with no choice but to watch hopelessly as the Reds equalized. Mandzukic claimed the goal for himself, and was awarded it officially by the score keeper before the teams returned from the dressing rooms for the second half.

The first part of the second period was as lackluster as the first half for Bayern, whose passing into attacking positions relied heavily on long balls from the back instead of the steady build up they had exhibited earlier in the match for brief stretches.

Hoffenheim should have taken the lead again through Kevin Volland, but he missed his golden opportunity.

Toni Kroos, the other player besides Robben facing injury issues after the Hertha match, entered the game for Mandzukic on 64 minutes. His work-rate and passing immediately improved the situation in the attacking portions of the midfield, as Bayern looked to grab the winning goal in Sinsheim.

In the 75th minute, Bayern worked the ball into the final third and more specifically, into the feet of Mario Götze. Bayern's summer (or rather spring if you recall the madness surrounding his acquisition) purchase was only a few meters from goal when he was dispossessed by Hoffenheim captain Andreas Beck. Beck tried to dribble his way out of the area towards the touchline but Schweinsteiger's lunging challenge kept the ball with Bayern.

Javi Martinez scooped up Schweinsteiger's tacke and sent a grounded pass to Ribery who turned to find a miraculously onside Müller completely free in front of goal. Müller beat Casteels to the near post from close range and the Champions of Europe were now in position to take all possible points just 15 minutes from the end of the match.

From then on, Hoffenheim found, just as in the first 15 minutes, that the more emphasis they put on the attack resulted in nothing else but more time they had to spend deterring very good Bayern chances.

Müller should have grabbed a second four minutes from time, but Schweinsteiger's cross was headed wide.

With the win, Bayern have equaled the mark set by the Hamburger SV sides of 1982 and 1983 for the most Bundesliga matches without a loss at 36. Also of consequence, Bayern remain atop the table, one point ahead of Dortmund and now four points up on Leverkusen, who were made to regret fielding a second-rate squad against Braunschweig.

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