Bayern Munich have narrowly bested minnows Viktoria Plzen, with Mario Mandzukic scoring the winner in a 1-0 Champions League victory. Bayer Leverkusen were held to a draw away to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Mandzukic's goal was all that separated Bayern from Plzen in the Czech Republic on Tuesday evening. The reigning European champions were a much different opponent than the dominant force that didn't allow a single shot on target when the two teams last met in Munich.
Coach Pep Guardiola went with a somewhat new lineup, electing to play Thomas Müller up top and leaving the true striker Mandzukic on the bench. The Bavarians never struggled to string together passes outside the box, but their finishing in the final third continued to fail them for most of the match.
A 16th minute effort from Bastian Schweinsteiger was the closest Bayern came to getting on board in the first half, but his shot was saved by the left post.
Taking note of his side's shortcomings in the Plzen box, Guardiola swapped Müller for Mandzukic less than 15 minutes into the second half. Six minutes later, the Croatian made his impact.
Starting on the right side of the area, Philipp Lahm crossed to a wide open Mandzukic at the far post. He leapt up to head the ball across goal and into the net, giving Bayern the only goal they would need to return to Munich as winners.
Plzen, who defended well for the entire match, were unlucky to be defeated by a moment of poor marking. They will also feel hard done by Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz, who denied the hosts a pair of questionable penalty calls in the first and second half.
The victory assures Bayern, who have 12 points from four straight wins, qualification out of Group D. It has been an impressive string of games for the club, who have now won five Champions League matches in a row on the road going back to last season. It is Bayern's best European away form in more than 15 years.
Plzen, meanwhile, saw any lingering hopes of qualification into the knockout stage dashed after failing to equal or better Manchester City's victorious 5-2 result against CSKA Moscow.
Scoreless in Ukraine
While Bayern against Plzen produced the lone goal among matches involving German sides Tuesday, it was Shakhtar Donetsk against Bayer Leverkusen that created the most exciting chances.
After an embarrassing 1-0 loss to last-place Bundesliga side Eintracht Braunschweig over the weekend, the pressure was on coach Sami Hyypia to get a result. The same could be said for Shakhtar, who were looking to get their first European home victory against a German side in more than 30 years.
It was the hosts who had the most dangerous opportunities on goal. Facundo Ferreyra, Fernando, Darijo Srna and Yaroslav Rakitskiy all had shots that either hit the woodwork or were saved by Bernd Leno, who put in an impressive goalkeeping performance.
Gonzalo Castro and Heung-Min Son’s deflected shot drew good stops from Leno's counterpart, Andriy Pyatov, but it was Sidney Sam's effort in the 72nd minute that Leverkusen will wish they had back.
After Stefan Kiessling headed the ball towards an unmarked Sam on the right side of the box, the young German turned and fired on goal from close range. But his shot was straight at Pyatov, who scooped it up easily.
The match finished scoreless – a result that will certainly leave Leverkusen satisfied. Having already picked up two wins, their seven points is good enough for second in the group.
Full Champions League results for Tuesday, November 5
Real Sociedad 0-0 Manchester United
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-0 Bayer Leverkusen
FC Copenhagen 1-0 Galatasaray
Juventus 2-2 Real Madrid
Olympiakos 1-0 Benfica
Paris St. Germain 1-1 Anderlecht
Manchester City 5-2 CSKA Moscow
Viktoria Plzen 0-1 Bayern Munich