Bayern Munich took advantage of their eight-point cushion at the top of the Bundesliga to rest a few key players against a Darmstadt side that was missing five starters as a result of yellow card accumulation. With a matchup against Juventus looming in midweek, Xabi Alonso found himself on the bench. Meanwhile, Philipp Lahm was given the day off and Serdar Tasci earned his first start in a Bayern shirt. Although the game would ultimately result in all three points for Bayern, the defensive foundation of the team looked far from secure at such a pivotal point in the season.
As expected, Bayern dominated possession from the start and looked the far more dangerous of the two sides, but Darmstadt opened the scoring against the run of play. They hit Bayern on the counter and Sandro Wagner, capitalizing on Tasci's poor positioning, latched onto the end of a Sandro Sirigu cross to head past Manuel Neuer at the near post. The goal ended a streak of five consecutive games without conceding at the Allianz Arena. Douglas Costa almost leveled the score immediately after the restart, but his powerful blast from distance rattled the bar. Despite 70 percent possession, 16 total shots, and seven corner kicks, Bayern went into halftime as the losing side for only the third time this season.
The home team needed just three minutes after the second half whistle to find the equalizer. Rafinha's cross into the box was taken on the chest by Thomas Müller, who coolly slotted past a diving Mathenia. With the score back level, Guardiola opted to change Bayern's look in both areas of the field, bringing on Franck Ribery and Juan Bernat and removing Kingsley Coman and Tasci. Ribéry received a boisterous applause from the Bayern crowd, making his first home appearance since March of last season.
Bayern turned up the pressure after equalizing and thought they had gone ahead, but Robert Lewandowski's point-blank effort was ruled out for offside. Moments later, the situation was rectified as Müller found the back of the net with a sublime overhead kick. Arturo Vidal crossed to the prolific German forward who once again calmly controlled the ball with his chest before superbly finishing with his back to goal. The home team continued to apply pressure to the now-beleaguered Darmstadt defense, and Lewandowski secured the points when he redirected Ribéry's cross into the back of the net with six minutes left to play to put the result beyond all doubt.
Although the game was ultimately a win for Bayern, the defensive weaknesses of the team were exposed by Darmstadt as they threatened on the counterattack. Vidal was often caught up the pitch and the makeshift defense of Alaba, Tasci, and Kimmich struggled to deal with the threats. It wasn't until Alonso joined the game late in the second half that the Bayern midfield seemed to have defensive presence. Scoring goals is essential to winning games, but so is defending, and the Bayern back line will have to do much better if the team hopes to prevail against Juventus on Tuesday.
Bayern Munich (3-1) Darmstadt
FCB: Thomas Muller (49’, 71’), Lewandowski (84')
D98: Sandro Wagner (26’)
Bayern XI: Neuer – Rafinha, Kimmich, Tasci (Bernat 53'), Alaba – Vidal – Coman (Ribéry 53'), Müller, Robben (Alonso 81'), Douglas – Lewandowski
Darmstadt XI: Mathenia – Garics, Caldirola, Rajkovic, Junior Diaz – Sirigu (Sailer 73'), Jungwirth, Holland (Gorka 87'), Kempe – Vrančić (Rosenthal 61') – Wagner