Bayern Munich secured a comfortable 2-0 win over 10-man Stuttgart to restore their 11-point gap at the summit of the Bundesliga.
Mario Mandzukic capitalised on a poor Christian Molinaro back-pass to round Sven Ulreich to open the scoring on the hour mark, before Thomas Mueller doubled the visitors advantage on the 70th minute, with Martin Harnik given his marching orders 10 minutes from time for the hosts.
Bayern dominated possession early, but took until the 10th minute to muster their first clear-cut opportunity after Dante rose highest to head Toni Kroos’ corner over the Stuttgart bar.
Bayern continued to press for the opener and again Kroos looked to turn provider from a free kick, but his cross was behind Javi Martinez who struggled to turn his header into the path of Ulreich, before David Alaba smashed his set piece from 30 yards out helplessly over the bar for the Bundesliga pacesetters.
The hosts were struggling to contain Bayern, but mustered the best chance of the opening exchanges. Shinji Okazaki was played into the right and drove for goal on the half-volley, only to flash his effort just wide of the far post.
Stuttgart began to settle as the half drew on and came close to drawing first blood. Ibrahima Traore was picked out on the left during a swift counterattack from the hosts and managed to pick out Harnik unmarked at the far post. He headed back across goal, but Manuel Neuer managed to gather after almost putting the ball into his own net.
Bayern dominated possession still and after Stuttgart failed to clear from a Kroos corner, the ball eventually found its way to Mandzukic. The Croatian controlled well and went for goal with a half-volley on the turn, firing over from 15 yards out with 10 minutes of the first half remaining.
Jupp Heynckes’ side continued to control proceedings after the interval and were rewarded five minutes into the second half. Molinaro played a weak back pass to Ulreich, which was capitalised upon by Mandzukic., who rounded the number one and slotted into an empty net to give Bayern the lead.
Mandzukic turned provider with 20 minutes remaining after breaking down the right. He waited for the run of Mueller in the 18-yard box before he picked out the Germany international, who beat Serdar Tasci to the ball and poked past Ulreich from close range to double Bayern’s advantage.
Stuttgart’s evening went from bad to worse with 10 minutes to go after Harnik was given his marching orders by referee Florian Meyer for a second booking following a late tackle on Franck Ribery.
Bayern pressed for a third to round off a miserable encounter for the hosts, but were made to settle for the 2-0 win as they secured their 15th win of the season.
Sunday’s other Bundesliga clash saw Hamburg claim local bragging rights with a 3-2 victory over Werder Bremen at the Imtech Arena.
The visitors took an early lead through Assani Lukimya, who got his head to an Alexander Ignjovski cross and diverted it past Rene Adler in the HSV goal.
The lead lasted a little over 10 minutes before the hosts got back on level terms. Son Heung Min dribbled past a host of Bremen bodies, before firing the ball beyond Sebastian Mielitz from an almost impossible angle to ensure the sides went into the break on level terms.
The second half started in dream fashion for Thosten Fink’s men. Within seconds of the restart, Dennis Aogo met a cross from Son to put his side in front. Controversy struck soon after when Artjoms Rudnevs made it 3-1, though replays showed him to be in an offside position.
Despite the two-goal deficit, Bremen fought back and got one back through a cool Sokratis Papastathopoulos finish, and although they pressed for an equaliser for the remaining 35 minutes, their quest was hampered by the dismissals of Clemens Fritz and Marko Arnautovic.
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