FC Bayern München 2-1 FC Nantes Atlantique
FC Bayern München finished second to Manchester United FC in Group A, despite extending their unbeaten UEFA Champions League run to 18 matches after beating FC Nantes Atlantique 2-1 at the Olympiastadion.
The German and European champions made heavy weather of disposing of a weakened Nantes side who came into the game with no chance of qualifying. Ottmar Hitzfeld's side finished level on points with United, but the English champions topped the group courtesy of their 1-1 away draw with Bayern just before Christmas.
Bayern needed to come from behind to clinch victory after Hassan Ahamada had given Nantes a surprise lead on 54 minutes. Bayern quickly levelled through Jens Jeremies and with the clock ticking down Claudio Pizarro, who had earlier missed a penalty, sealed the win with a clever volley. Nevertheless Bayern's overall performance was lacklustre. They dominated possession but were overly patient in their approach and until the Germans fell behind they had been had not forced the Nantes goalkeeper Willy Grondin to make a save.
Jeremies and Pizarro might have grabbed the goals, but Bayern's real hero was second-half substitute Hasan Salihamidzic, who was returning to the Bavarian side after a four-month absence caused by a torn cruciate ligament. The Bosnia-Herzegovnian immediately introduced a cutting edge to the German side that had been previously been missing, providing a steady stream of crosses from both flanks. Salihamidzic also won the Bayern penalty - he was fouled by Yves Deroff on 72 minutes - and provided the cross for Pizarro's goal three minutes from the end.
Given that Nantes had little to play for and the inexperience of their side - Löic Paillères and Jérémy Toulalan were making their full debuts - the French club can take enormous credit from their gritty approach to the game. Mauro Cetto and Nicolas Gillet were superb in defence and in attack the lone striker Ahamada worked tirelessly and his goal was a just reward for all that hard work. He latched on to Sylvain Armand's clever pass, shrugged off Thomas Linke before hitting his shot past Oliver Kahn. The Bayern keeper got his hand to the shot and took the sting out of it but Ahamada's effort somehow trickled past the retreating Linke and into the net.
With Bayern's unbeaten record under threat, the Germans finally clicked into gear. Jeremies nodded past Grondin and although Pizarro directed his penalty too close to Grondin he made no mistake with that late volley.
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