Guardiola focused as Bayern surge ahead

AFP - [email protected] • 25 Jan, 2014 Updated Sat 25 Jan 2014 16:03 CEST
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Record-breaking Bayern Munich may have opened up a 10-point gap in the Bundesliga, but coach Pep Guardiola is already eying the next three points from Wednesday's trip to VfB Stuttgart.

League leaders Bayern extended their record unbeaten league run to 42 matches on Friday with a convincing 2-0 win at third-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach.

A superb strike from Bayern forward Mario Götze after just seven minutes gave the defending champions the lead before Thomas Mueller converted a second-half penalty.

With their main rivals playing Saturday, Bayern took the chance to extend their lead and can pull further ahead in Stuttgart on Wednesday in a re-arranged fixture.

Having suffered a shock 3-0 friendly defeat at Austrian league leaders Red Bull Salzburg last Saturday, Guardiola was delighted to return to winning ways at Borussia Park.

"We took our lessons from the defeat in Salzburg and we played well against an unbelievably good opponent," said the 43-year-old.

"It's not easy to win here and we controlled the game.

"I was pleased with our performance and we have a big chance to extend our lead with three more points at Stuttgart on Wednesday."

It was Guardiola who learnt the biggest lesson from the Salzburg defeat as he abandoned an experimental three-man defence, reverting to his preferred 4-1-4-1 formation.

Striker Mario Mandzukic was left out of the match day squad completely - "Mario hasn't been training as we know he can," explained director of sport Matthias Sammer, preferring Germany star Götze up front.

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This was a typical Bayern performance under Guardiola: around 65 percent possession, 24 shots on goal compared to Gladbach's 10, with twice as many passes made and completed as their opponents.

"We worked really, really well and put in a good performance, we deserved the win," said Götze.

"We are a super team and under the coach's guidance, every player is improving and feels good here.

"We're looking forward to the next game."

It seems folly to talk of the Bundesliga title being already decided in January, but Bayern show no signs of dropping points.

They have already also won at fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund and drawn at second-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

"Bayern were clearly superior to us over the 90 minutes," admitted Germany striker Max Kruse as Gladbach suffered their first home defeat of the season to abruptly end their eight-match unbeaten run.

"You could see from the start that they wanted to pick up where they left off last year."

The hosts squandered three clear chances to score.

Kruse hit the post, Juan Arango forcing Bayern's Manuel Neuer into a good save before the break, then Patrick Herrmann fired wide late on with the goal at his mercy.

"In some situations, perhaps we missed a bit of luck," admitted Borussia goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has been linked to a move to Barcelona.

"Manuel Neuer [Bayern goalkeeper] was strong in the decisive situations for them.

"It's very different playing against Bayern Munich, they were simply better than we were."

While captain Philipp Lahm was again switched from right-back to defensive midfielder, Bayern ruled in the middle.

Thiago Alcantara and Toni Kroos were outstanding alongside Lahm, but Bayern have yet to welcome back a host of midfield stars.

Wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben were both kept back, while Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger are also still to feature.



AFP 2014/01/25 16:03

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