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Below-par Bayern end league slump as Real Madrid loom Dortmund pick up 5th straight win

BERLIN, April 19, (AFP): Bayern Munich ended a run of three Bundesliga games without victory in Saturday’s unimpressive 2-0 win at bottom club Eintracht Braunschweig, four days before their Champions League semi-final at Real Madrid. Peru veteran Claudio Pizarro, 35, and Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic were on target with late goals in what was only Bayern’s third win in their last seven games in all competitions. Despite enjoying their customary 65 percent possession and fielding a near full-strength team, Bayern needed 76 minutes to breach the Braunschweig defence with the hosts battling to preserve their top-flight status. The breakthrough came when Mario Goezte found Pizarro and he scored Bayern’s first goal in their last three league games. With the Braunschweig defence tiring, Mandzukic grabbed their second three minutes from time as Bayern won their first league match since winning the title nearly four weeks ago with a record seven games to spare.

But just as they were in recent consecutive defeats to Augsburg and Borussia Dortmund, Bayern looked lethargic, despite coach Pep Guardiola’s pre-match wish for a polished performance to take a “good feeling” to Madrid. “It’s not easy for us after winning the German title, but we fought despite a difficult situation” said Guardiola. “Braunschweig fought with heart and passion, which didn’t make life easy for us. “We had the game under more control after the break and I’m happy with the win. “But we won’t reach the Champions League final unless we put in a commanding performance against Real Madrid.”

Bayern were without Manchester United-target Toni Kroos and Rafinha, who were both suspended, while left-back David Alaba was missing with a cold. Germany goalkeeper Manuer Neuer sat out the trip to Braunschweig as he recovers from a calf injury with reserve shot-stopper Lukas Raeder stepping in for the third time. The victory leaves Bayern on 81 points and 17 points clear of second-placed Dortmund who picked up their fifth straight win. Borussia enjoyed a 4-2 victory at home to ten-man Mainz 05 as coach Jurgen Klopp faced his former side having coached them from 2001-08. Dortmund took the lead after just six minutes through a curious goal when Milos Jojic’s strike went in off the upper arm of Borussia’s Oliver Kirch, but despite furious protests the goal stood.

Japan striker Shinji Okazaki scored twice for Mainz to make it 2-2, his second after pouncing on a terrible back pass from Dortmund’s Nuri Sahin. The Japanese international scoring either side of Bayern-bound Robert Lewandowski’s strike for Dortmund. Dortmund made sure of the three points, which confirmed their Champions League direct qualification, with goals by defender Lukasz Piszczek and Germany winger Marco Reus, who converted a penalty 12 minutes from time after Mainz had centre-back Niko Bungert sent off for a handball.

Ten-man VfL Wolfsburg took a step towards a Champions League berth with a 3-1 win at relegation-threatened Hamburg to leapfrog Bayer Leverkusen into fourth place. Goals by Ivan Perisic, Kevin de Bruyne and Ivica Olic gave Wolves a 3-0 lead just after the break before Hamburg’s Ivo Ilicevic scored a consolation for the hosts who remain third from bottom. Wolves were reduced to ten men when Brazil midfielder Luiz Gustavo was sent off for a second yellow card on 90 minutes.

Hamburg have just three games left to escape the bottom three as they face an historic first relegation from Germany’s top flight. Leverkusen can regain fourth place when they visit second-from-bottom Nuremberg on Sunday. At the other end of the table, Freiburg are virtually assured of their survival as their 4-2 win at home to ten-man Borussia Moenchengladbach left them eight points above the relegation places with three games left. Likewise, Werder Bremen are set to stay in the Bundesliga as their 3-1 win at home to Hoffenheim lifted them up to 11th and nine points from danger while mid-table Hertha Berlin and Augsburg shared the points in a goalless draw.

Standings
    P    W    D    L    GF    GA    Pts
Bayern Munich    31    26    3    2    84    20    81
Borussia Dortmund    31    20    4    7    71    34    64
Schalke 04    30    17    7    6    56    38    58
Wolfsburg    31    16    5    10    56    46    53
Leverkusen    30    16    3    11    50    37    51
Moenchengladbach    31    14    7    10    54    39    49
Mainz 05    31    14    5    12    46    49    47
Augsburg    31    12    7    12    41    45    43
Hoffenheim    31    10    10    11    67    66    40
Hertha Berlin    31    10    8    13    38    42    38
Werder Bremen    31    9    9    13    37    59    36
Eintracht Frankfurt    31    9    8    14    39    53    35
Freiburg    31    9    8    14    39    54    35
Hanover 96    31    10    5    16    41    57    35
VfB Stuttgart    30    7    7    16    45    58    28
Hamburg    31    7    6    18    47    65    27
Nuremberg    30    5    11    14    35    58    26
Braunschweig    31    6    7    18    28    54    25

Note: Top three qualify directly for the Champions League, fourth goes into the play-offs, fifth, sixth and seventh into Europa League. The bottom two sides are relegated and the team finishing 16th has a two-legged play-off against the side which finishes third in the second division. Standings read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against and points.

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