FC Bayern München kept alive their hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League knockout stages after beating Maccabi Haifa FC 1-0 on Wednesday.
In need of three points and good fortune to stand a chance of emerging from Group A along with FC Girondins de Bordeaux, Bayern's prayers were answered as the French side defeated Juventus 2-0 and Ivica Olić's 62nd-minute goal completed home-and-away wins against the Israeli challengers. The performance may not have been convincing, but this success means Louis van Gaal's team head to Turin on Matchday 6 knowing victory will take them through at the Bianconeri's expense.
Despite the fact events in south-west France would determine their fate as much as their own efforts in Bavaria, Bayern set their stall out to attack. Van Gaal named Mario Gómez in his starting XI for the first time in the competition this season, and the striker drilled an early low effort narrowly wide after a crisp exchange of passes with Mark van Bommel. Bastian Schweinsteiger would have had an even better shooting opportunity moments later had the German international been able to take Thomas Müller's smart return in his stride.
While Bayern continued their quest for a maiden home goal of the group stage, Maccabi strove to find the net for the first time in this campaign. Despite the promptings of visiting captain Yaniv Katan, however, it was the hosts who continued to create the best openings. A glorious Schweinsteiger pass led to Olić firing a powerful shot goalwards which ricocheted to safety off goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch, while only wonderful anticipation from Shai Maymon allowed the Maccabi defender to lunge and block a goal-bound Gómez drive. The breakthrough appeared within Bayern's capabilities yet remained tantalisingly out of reach, and an Olić header that drifted over the bar in the dying seconds of the half merely added to their angst.
The sense of frustration would have increased had Katan taken the half-chance that Mohammad Ghadir laid on for him soon after the break, but the forward saw his attempt arc over Hans-Jörg Butt's bar. The home crowd sighed as one when Schweinsteiger grazed the bar with a vicious free-kick. Then, just after the hour, Gómez and Olić – starting together in the UEFA Champions League for the first time – finally eased the tension at the Fußball Arena München. Having been picked out by Van Bommel's precise pass, Gómez cleverly worked space to shoot, and though Davidovitch parried, Olić swept the ball into the empty net to spark celebrations tinged as much with relief as joy.
Often neat in their approach play, Maccabi failed to find the cutting edge to call Butt into action, though the Bayern No1 did have to scamper across his goal as Katan sent a free-kick dipping just over. Philipp Lahm and Van Bommel both went close to embellishing the scoreline in the closing stages, but the biggest cheer was reserved for Bordeaux's second goal against Juventus, which means Bayern's destiny will be in their own hands in two weeks' time.
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