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Plžen, Thrills, and Bellyaches | Viktoria Plzen vs. Bayern Recap

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Bayern struggle, succeed, and struggle some more on their way to victory in the Czech Republic and qualify for the Round of 16.

Alexander Hassenstein

If this match was a public transit bus, it would have been one with "BATE" and "Basel" written in spray paint on the sides in Comic Sans, and it would have certainly not seen the merits in having a steering wheel that functioned more than 50% of the time.

The first half was spread all over the ground, using the same buttering technique Manuel Neuer deploys to adequately cover his bread products with Nutella.

Besides Schweinsteiger hitting the post on a grounded shot from distance, and David Alaba having a bending free kick saved, Bayern were as threatening as an overweight politician; you knew they were controlling the proceedings but it was never like they were about to maul you like Problembär JJ1.

A Plzen chance here, a Bayern chance there, more than a few players slipping and sliding about the well-irrigated pitch, and dozens of aimless crosses later, the teams reached halftime at a 0-0 stalemate or, at least, a non-proliferation agreement.

Maybe Pep Guardiola let the players have it in the dressing rooms, or maybe he didn't. Bayern fans should hope he didn't or else he has very little emotional control over his team, because FCB didn't play more inspired football after the break. Actually, you can't play "more inspired" football if it wasn't a little bit inspired in the first place, which it was so clearly not.

While Bayern got some attacking chances, like Lahm having what would have been his first goal in a meaningful match since Louis van Gaal was manager cleared off the line (it may have gone wide anyways, but we'll never know), they continually allowed Plzen to have dangerous, probing counterattacks that sometimes didn't even need to prefix 'counter' to be accurately described.

For periods of one or two minutes every once in awhile, the Czech side bombarded the Bayern goal with cross after cross. Realistically, they could have expected one or two goals out of this match with the way they played but were not the recipients of any luck to speak of.

Bayern eventually found their breakthrough in the 65th minute through substitute Mario Mandzukic, when he headed in a perfect Lahm cross. The match turned in Bayern's favor once Mandzukic was brought on, after entering the game for Thomas Müller, who handed in another dismal performance. This time he was unable to get a goal late on to save his place in the team.

Javi Martinez also entered at the same time Mandzukic did but played in the attacking midfield with Lahm back in the single-pivot role after playing in defense over the weekend.

After Bayern were in the lead, Plzen had a few more good chances to equalize from crosses but none were poked home.

The Reds should have had a second with Mario Götze, but he never pulled the trigger on an open net and the move lost steam too soon for him to find anyone else to take the attempt. Even the co-commentator, Bayern legend Lothar Matthäus, said "2-0!" but Götze never shot. Curse of the commentator, we hope.

A bright spot for the Germans was, once again in the Champions League, Toni Kroos, who completed 95% of his passes on the night. Not so great on the night was Diego Contento, who clumsily fouled Plzen players left and right and nearly had a penalty awarded against the Bavarians minutes into the game.

With Manchester City's win against CSKA Moscow, Bayern have officially clinched their place in the final 16.

Next, Bayern travel to Augsburg in Bundesliga play on Saturday. Of note, these two will play in the next round of the DFB-Pokal there as well, which takes place just before the Winter break.

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