Bayern Munich 2-0 Sao Paulo: Battling Bavarians dispatch Brazilians in Audi Cup semi-final
Second-half goals from substitutes Mandzukic and Weiser saw the hosts record a comfortable victory over Paulo Autuori's side to set up a clash with Manchester City
By Ryan Bailey
The majority inside the Allianz Arena on Wednesday evening were left frustrated as the Brazilian visitors defended resolutely during the first period, as Pep Guardiola's star-studded side struggled to find the cutting edge in the final third despite their dominance.
However, the introduction of Mario Mandzukic for Claudio Pizarro at half-time sparked the German champions into life and they hit the front just 10 minutes into the second period when the Croatian striker volleyed home Arjen Robben's cross, before Mitchell Weiser sealed the win with a late strike.
With the new Bundesliga season a little over a week away, Guardiola opted to make eight changes to the side beaten by Dortmund, with both Manuel Neuer and Franck Ribery returning from injury.
It wasn’t long before the hosts exerted their dominance on the game, just as they did on so many occasions during last year’s treble-winning campaign.
However, they struggled to break down a well-organised and resolute Sao Paulo rearguard during a first period that lacked any real quality in the final third from either side.
Bayern were largely restricted to long-range efforts on goal but found Rogerio Ceni in inspired form as he produced save after save to frustrate Robben and Ribery in particular.
Despite their dominance, it took Guardialo’s side the best part of a half an hour to get in behind the Sao Paulo defence but Robben was once again denied by the veteran goalkeeper.
At the other end, Neuer was largely redundant in the Bayern goal but the new-look central defensive partnership of Dante and Javi Martinez were kept on their toes by the lively Wellington and Aloisio, with the latter testing the handling of the German shot-stopper with a stinging effort.
As the half wore on, Bayern increased the tempo and went inches from taking a deserved lead on 38 minutes. Philipp Lahm, operating in midfield, got to the end-line before picking out Claudio Pizarro, but his goal-bound effort was hacked off the line.
Moments later, Ribery slipped in the marauding David Alaba but once again Ceni was equal to the task and pulled off a fine stop with his legs.
The same pattern continued after the interval but the introduction of Mandzukic provided the hosts with a different attacking dimension. The Croatian striker headed Robben’s cross narrowly over with his first touch before converting his sides’ dominance into a deserved lead with a composed finish.
The breakthrough seemed to ignite Guardiola’s side and another eye-catching move involving Mandzukic, Ribery and Lahm nearly gifted Robben a goal but the delivery was just out of reach.
A host of substitutions from both managers disrupted the flow of the game before Mandzukic came close to doubling the lead from a tight angle but was denied by the Austrian goalkeeper.
The strength in depth at the Allianz Arena was highlighted as Thomas Muller, Xherdan Shaqiri and Jerome Boateng were all sprung from the bench during a fairly low-key and pedestrian paced second period.
And it was two substitutes who combined to double the hosts’ advantage. Shaqiri broke free from midfield and although he saw his thunderous shot crash off the woodwork, Weiser was on hand to slot home.
However, that wasn’t the end of the action as Boateng’s clumsy challenge thatresulted in the referee pointing to the spot, but Ceni couldn’t cap a fine personal performance with a goal as Neuer guessed right to parry it to safety.
Sao Paulo will now face AC Milan on Thursday evening, while Bayern Munich will take on Manchester City in the tournament finale.
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