Bayern Munich showed little sign of a Champions League hangover as they returned to Bundesliga action with a 1-0 win at Cologne on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side required extra-time to see off Juventus in midweek in a dramatic 6-4 aggregate win, but their European exertions did little to dampen a typically energetic performance.
A confident start was rewarded when Thiago Alcantara’s low cross was only half-cleared on the edge of the box, allowing Robert Lewandowski to pick his spot for his 25th Bundesliga goal of the season.
While not a vintage performance from the leaders, one goal proved enough against a Cologne side that has now lost three consecutive home games in the league, despite Anthony Modeste and Leonardo Bittencourt both spurning decent opportunities after the break.
The win moves Bayern eight points clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund, who visit Augsburg on Sunday, and one step closer to a fourth consecutive Bundesliga crown, with Guardiola looking to compete on all fronts as his final season in Bavaria reaches its conclusion.
Lewandowski was one of four Bayern starters to play the full 120 minutes on Wednesday, but he was as sharp as ever in handing his side the lead on 10 minutes, pouncing on Dominique Heintz’s poor touch on the edge of the area to curl home.
Douglas Costa bent a 30-yard free-kick just wide 12 minutes later as Bayern’s confidence grew, with Cologne struggling to get out of the own half for much of the first period, much to the frustration of lone striker Modeste.
A wayward header from Heintz’s cross was as close as the Frenchman came to bothering a Bayern defence that had previously conceded just once in their last four league games.
Marcel Risse fared little better by blazing a free-kick high over the crossbar three minutes before half-time, ensuring goalkeeper Manuel Neuer remained untested.
However, Neuer was the hero of the second half, and had his palms warmed eight minutes after the break courtesy of Bittencourt’s tame shot after the winger had combined well with Modeste, who also headed over moments later and saw Risse’s low cross just drift agonisingly out of his reach.
Modeste should have done better when he got in ahead of Neuer to latch on to a high ball behind the defence, only for his goalbound effort to be blocked by the backtracking David Alaba, much to the relief of the visitors, who again had Neuer to thank in the last moment of the match.
After Kingsley Coman blazed wide, Cologne sped up the other end with time running out but Bittencourt could not get enough of a touch on Risse’s cross and Neuer preserved a hard-earned win.
Key Opta stats:
– Bayern Munich have won all eight of their league games immediately after a Champions League fixture this term, scoring 23 goals and conceding just one.
– Bayern have conceded 13 goals, equalling the record from the last three seasons after 27 Bundesliga games.
– Cologne haven’t won a corner in either game versus Bayern this season (180 Minutes played). It is the first time this has happened in the German top flight (since data collection started in 2006/07).
– Franck Ribery played his 200th game in the Bundesliga (69 goals, 76 assists).
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