Bayern Munich continued its fine preseason form with a 2-0 victory over Sao Paulo thanks to second-half strikes from Mario Mandzukic and 19-year-old Mitchell Weiser. With the win, the Bavarians secured their place in Thursday's Audi Cup final.
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 its cutting edge in the final third.
However, the introduction of Mandzukic for Claudio Pizarro at halftime spurred the German champions into life as they were in front just 10 minutes into the second period. The Croatian striker volleyed home Arjen Robben's cross before 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 that was beaten by Borussia Dortmund in last week’s German Super Cup, as both Manuel Neuer and Franck Ribery returned 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-organized and resolute Sao Paulo rear-guard during a first period which lacked any real quality in the final third from either side.
Bayern was largely restricted to long-range efforts on goal but found Rogério Ceni in inspired form as he produced save after save to frustrate Arjen Robben and Ribery in particular.
As the half wore on, Bayern increased the tempo and went inches from taking a deserved lead on 38 minutes. Phillip 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 Mandžukić provided the hosts with a different attacking dimension. The Croatian striker headed Robben’s cross narrowly over with his first touch before converting his side's 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.
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 before he saw his thunderous shot rebound off the post but Weiser was on hand to slot home.
However, that wasn’t the end of the action as Boateng’s clumsy challengeresulted in the referee pointing to the spot. Ceni, however, 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 tomorrow evening while Bayern Munich will face Manchester City in the tournament final.
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