German champions Bayern Munich extended their lead at the top of the Bundesliga to 18 points with a 2-0 win over FSV Mainz at the OPEL Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The home side must have fancied their chances after seeing the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Kingsley Coman and Joshua Kimmich all benched but Jupp Heynckes's starters still presented a fair bit to worry about, with Franck Ribery, Corentin Tolisso and Thomas Muller making the starting 11 along with the returning Sandro Wagner.
They tried taking the game to Bayern quite early in the match, and the two sides looked evenly matched offensively in the opening 10.
Sandro Schwarz's side looked especially threatening on the counter and got their first real chance after breaking away from a Bayern possession with remarkable pace.
Alexandru Maxim got a right-footed shot off after being played on the edge of the box. The midfielder drove inside and brought the ball to his right foot before shooting, but the strike drifted narrowly wide, much to Bayern's relief.
Mainz were made to rue their missed opportunity, though, with Ribery blasting a low shot through a crowd on a half-volley following a corner that was headed his way in the 33rd minute.
The Frenchman, who spent several weeks sidelined with a knee injury earlier this season, was visibly delighted having scored his second goal of the Bundesliga campaign. And it possibly came at just the right time, with Champions League action just over the horizon.
Bayern doubled their lead just before halftime, only seconds after Muller missed a great chance. Tolisso found an unmarked James Rodriguez in the opposition's box, and the Colombian wasted no time blasting home after showing great control to chest the ball down onto his boot.
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The Bundesliga leaders took a 2-0 lead into the break, leaving the home side with a real uphill battle to contemplate.
The second period began with a flurry of chances, mostly for Bayern, but Mainz did force a great save from Sven Ulreich after
Heynckes sent Lewandowski on in the 63rd minute, pulling Wagner off after what was an underwhelming performance up front. Ribery was also taken off, making way for an in-form Coman with nine minutes left in the match.
Coman tried leaving his mark with a strong shot from a tight angle after a surging run forward, but the Mainz keeper was able to cover with a save.
That would sum it up for the two sides after a spectacle of a match. Bayern, though, would be the ones to snatch all three points to move closer to what should be their sixth successive Bundesliga title.
Mainz Starting XI: Zentner – Donati, Diallo, Bell (c), Hack, Holtmann - Gbamin, Latza - Öztunali, Maxim - Muto
Bench: Müller, De Jong, Quaison, Berggreen, Brosinski, Ujah, Serdar
Bayern Starting XI: Ulreich - Rafinha, Boateng, Hummels, Bernat - Rudy, Tolisso - Müller (c), James, Ribery - Wagner
Bench: Starke, Süle, Lewandowski, Robben, Alaba, Coman, Kimmich