Mueller's penalty enough for Bayern to beat Lille
LILLE, France (AP)
Thomas Mueller scored a first-half penalty as last season's runner-up Bayern Munich hit back from a shock loss in its preceding Champions League match to win 1-0 at Lille on Tuesday.
Bayern has been in unstoppable form in the Bundesliga, notching eight straight wins, but a surprise 3-1 defeat to BATE Borisov three weeks ago had put it under pressure.
Just as Lille was settling, Lucas Digne gave away a penalty for a foul on Philipp Lahm, although the decision appeared harsh. Mueller sent goalkeeper Mickael Landreau the wrong way from the spot for his third goal in two games and eighth of the season.
Bayern has six points in Group F, while Lille has lost all three matches and is nearing another early exit - just like last season.
''It was a tough task today,'' Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said. ''We didn't play that well, but in the end managed to get a victory.''
Bayern looked the sharper side early on with Franck Ribery probing down the left and Toni Kroos controlling the midfield with ease.
Digne finally found some space down the left in the 14th minute and crossed for Brazilian striker Tulio De Melo, but he was well shackled by Brazilian defender Dante and headed wide under pressure.
Then Digne let the ball get away from him in the 20th, and chased after Lahm as he burst into the penalty area and the Germany left back tumbled under the slightest hint of contact - although the 19-year-old Digne showed his inexperience by over-compensating for his mistake.
''I don't think Bayern needs a helping hand from the referee, they're a big team and they can win without that,'' Lille coach Rudi Garcia said. ''A lot went Bayern's way tonight, even though (the referee) compensated a bit at the end by giving out some cards.''
In exactly the same situation midway through the second half, Lille midfielder Florent Balmont collapsed under Javi Martinez's challenge, but this time referee Martin Atkinson did not award a penalty.
Digne kept attacking down the left, and from another one of his pinpoint crosses, Bayern goalie Manuel Neuer was relieved to see the ball fly past De Melo as he tried to get his head on it.
''It was a bit better in the second half, we managed to put them under pressure a bit more,'' Lille midfielder Benoit Pedretti said. ''Unfortunately, we failed to get our shots on target. They didn't create much more than we did, but got the penalty and they were strong after that. That's what the highest level is about.''
Ribery, who was on the receiving end of a few heavy challenges, was replaced at halftime by Xherdan Shaqiri. The injury did not look serious as Ribery was able to watch the second half from the bench with strapping and ice on his thigh.
''I felt a little bit of a cramp in the muscle when I accelerated, and it became a bit awkward afterward as it was still bothering me,'' said Ribery, who hopes to recover in time to play against Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. ''I really didn't feel 100 percent. I spoke about it with the doctor and the physios at halftime, and we agreed that it might be quite dangerous if I carried on.''
Kroos tried his luck with a volley from 25 yards that flew over, and Mueller easily beat Digne down the wing and whipped in a cross that just eluded striker Mario Mandzukic.
Lille hardly threatened until substitute Ryan Mendes came on, and the skillful forward found space inside the penalty area but was closed down quickly and scuffed his shot when well placed.
Mendes' trickery was proving a real handful, and Lille fans will surely regret that he didn't start the match.
''It wasn't our best game tonight, but we did what we had to,'' Ribery said. ''We needed to get a result and we're very happy with that.''
Garcia is optimistic that Lille can still qualify, although it needs to win its remaining three games to stand a chance - starting away to Bayern in two weeks' time.
''How can I hold anything against the players? They gave everything,'' Garcia said. ''No team has more than six points. We're still alive. Of course this means we will have to win in Munich, but European football is made of such things.''