Friday, April 28, 2017

Cologne 0 Bayern Munich 3: Martinez and Bernat the unlikely sharpshooters as leaders pull clear

SoccerNews in Bundesliga 4 Mar 2017

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Bayern Munich’s superstar forward line allowed two less glamorous team-mates a rare share of the spotlight on Saturday, as Spanish defenders Javi Martinez and Juan Bernat scored in a 3-0 win to end Cologne’s long unbeaten run at home and move the champions seven points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

The hosts had not tasted defeat at RheinEnergie Stadion in the league since April 2016, but the omens were not good for them when Martinez put Carlo Ancelotti’s visiting heavyweights ahead midway through the first half, Bayern having previously gone on to win every time the former Athletic Bilbao star had struck for them in the Bundesliga.

And that streak remained intact, thanks in no small part to his fellow Spain international Bernat, who afforded the visitors a comfortable two-goal cushion when he slotted home at the back post three minutes into the second half, before substitute Franck Ribery capped off the win by scoring a third in the 90th minute. 

While lacking the wow factor of their extraordinary 8-0 triumph at home to Hamburg last weekend, the result was never in doubt, as Bayern took advantage of the points dropped by second-placed RB Leipzig in a 2-2 draw away to Augsburg on Friday to strengthen their
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grip at the top of the table.

Cologne more than held their own during a high-tempo start to the game, Manuel Neuer producing a brilliant reflex save in the 18th minute to deny Yuya Osako, whose header from Christian Clemens’ cross appeared destined for the top corner.

Having slowly come to dominate the contest, Bayern took a deserved lead in the 25th minute, when a short corner allowed Douglas Costa to burst into the area unchallenged and cross to the back post. Arturo Vidal hooked the ball back into the centre and Martinez steered a close-range finish into the top of the far side-netting for his first Bayern goal since November 2015.

Costa, Vidal and David Alaba all called Cologne goalkeeper Thomas Kessler into action from long-range strikes throughout the half, without being able to extend the visitors’ advantage.

There was an element of good fortune involved when they did double their lead, Bernat arriving in space on the left side of the area, gathering Thomas Muller’s pass and finding the back of the net after a slight deflection off covering defender Pawel Olkowski in the 48th minute.

In a slight fitness worry for Bayern, Costa limped off soon after the second goal, to be replaced by Ribery, who added gloss to the scoreline by running onto Bernat’s cutback and smashing home an emphatic third in the 90th minute.

Next up for Ancelotti’s men is the formality of accounting for Arsenal in the second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie on Tuesday, before the powerhouse Bavarians welcome Eintracht Frankfurt to Allianz Arena next weekend, seeking to continue their quest to claim an unprecedented fifth successive league title.

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