Top spot 'most important' for Ancelotti after narrow Bayern win

The Bundesliga giants were far from their best on Sunday but still managed to take all three points and their coach says the result is all that matters

Carlo Ancelotti insisted Bayern Munich returning to return to the top of the Bundesliga was more important than the performance in a hard-fought 1-0 win over Darmstadt on Sunday.

James: I could leave Madrid in January

The reigning champions scraped the three points against the division’s bottom side and were well below their best, Douglas Costa’s stunning winner finally separating the teams in the 71st minute.

Despite the indifferent performance, victory was enough to reclaim top spot from RB Leipzig – their next opponents on Wednesday – on goal difference and Ancelotti was left satisfied.

“It was a difficult game, Darmstadt defended very well,” he said. “We did not play fast enough in the first half. In the second, it was a bit better.

“In the end, it is most important to win and be on top again. I am satisfied with that.

“But we can play better, faster. On Wednesday against Leipzig, we will give our best and try to win.”

Bayern defender Mats Hummels added that the game played out just as he expected, given Darmstadt’s dogged style.

World pokes fun at Man City shirts

“It was not easy playing against aggressive, defensive opponents,” the Germany international said. “This is just the way it is at Darmstadt – I have never seen a team win here playing magical football.

“Here, you fight and you work hard. Our individual quality has decided the game today.”

Darmstadt 0-1 Bayern Munich: Costa stunner sends Bayern back to the top

Carlo Ancelotti’s men claimed their fifth consecutive win and go above RB Leipzig on goal difference with the two sides set to clash at Allianz Arena on Wednesday

Douglas Costa scored a stunning winner as Bayern Munich won 1-0 at Darmstadt to seal their return to the top of the Bundesliga table.

Bayern had over 80 per cent of the first-half possession but failed to register a shot on target as the hosts held firm prior to the break.

Darmstadt’s resistance was eventually broken by Costa’s moment of brilliance, the Brazil international scoring a 30-yard beauty with 19 minutes remaining.

While Bayern failed to produce the fireworks that saw them thrash Wolfsburg 5-0 last time out, Costa’s strike proved to be decisive and gave them a fifth straight victory across all competitions.

The win puts them back above RB Leipzig on goal difference at the top of the table ahead of a crucial meeting with their surprise title rivals at the Allianz Arena in their final league game of 2016 on Wednesday.

Darmstadt, meanwhile, have now lost a club record eight straight matches in all competitions and scored just once in five league games, meaning they remain rooted to the bottom. 

Sandro Sirigu had a shot blocked by Thiago Alcantara and Jan Rosenthal headed narrowly wide as Darmstadt made a decent start.

Bayern, who made four changes to their line-up, did not trouble home goalkeeper Michael Esser at all in the first half, with Mats Hummels claiming he had been fouled by Mario Vrancic before heading over from close range shortly before the break.

Esser was finally tested for the first time after 54 minutes, saving from Thomas Muller at his near post after Robert Lewandowski had created the opportunity.

Vrancic curled a free-kick just off target at the other end, but Manuel Neuer was not being tested by the strugglers.

Carlo Ancelotti needed a spark and opted to bring on Franck Ribery for Arturo Vidal in an attacking substitution.

It was Costa who made the breakthrough, though. Thiago backheeled a quick free-kick into the winger’s path and he smashed an unstoppable swerving shot in off the crossbar from long range for his third league goal of the season.

Darmstadt had a chance to draw level with a free-kick in prime position outside the area after Hummels had fouled Vrancic.

Jerome Gondorf’s set-piece was parried by Neuer, who then saved Peter Niemeyer’s follow-up.

That ensured Bayern – who brought on Joshua Kimmich to tighten things up in the latter stages – held on for victory and left Darmstadt stuck on eight points.

Low picks Kroos over Ozil for FIFA award

The Germany boss has selected the Real Madrid midfielder ahead of the Arsenal playmaker, with Manuel Neuer completing his voting ballot

Germany coach Joachim Low has revealed he has voted for Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos ahead of Arsenal star Mesut Ozil for the FIFA Best Player award.

Kroos had to settle for 17th place in the vote for the Ballon d’Or, but he has his international coach’s backing in the race for the FIFA honour.

‘Germany’s best player is the team’

“Toni has consistently been playing at a very high level this year, won the Champions League with Real Madrid and has performed incredibly well with the national team,” Low told Bild.

“You can always rely on him and that was reason enough for me to vote for him.

“I voted for Kroos, Ozil and Manuel Neuer, in that order.”

Low signed a new contract as Germany boss until 2020 back in October and he has made it clear he would have renewed regardless of the world champions’ result at Euro 2016.

“I would still have had the motivation to go for it again in 2018 had we won Euro 2016,” added the 56-year-old.

‘Ramos is world’s best player’

“I would have continued either way, I would also have renewed had we won the Euros.

“We did not make it and that motivates us to keep pushing and achieve something again. We remain ambitious.”

Guardiola: People are right – I only won at Barca because I had amazing players

The Manchester City coach says he fully agrees with those suggesting his trophy haul in Catalonia and Bayern Munich was a product of the talent at his disposal

Pep Guardiola says he will readily admit that his success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich was a product of the “amazing” players at his disposal.

Guardiola defends style: I want to win

The Catalan won six league titles in seven seasons as a top-level manager in La Liga and the Bundesliga, but his Manchester City team has fallen seven points adrift of current Premier League leaders Chelsea this year.

And Guardiola insists that those suggesting his trophy haul at his two previous clubs was largely down to the calibre of players he had to choose from are right.

“I will not have success? I will not have success,” he told Thierry Henry in an interview for Sky Sports . “This happens to all of the managers – all the managers are sacked, all the managers win or lose, all the managers in November lose in the Premier League. All the managers in the world make mistakes.

“Do you think I am special or different? Of course not. But we were lucky, they said – we were lucky to have players like [Henry], like [Lionel] Messi, like Philipp Lahm, like Xabi Alonso, like [Robert] Lewandowski, and that’s why I had success.

“When I won in Barcelona many times, I said many times in the press conference, ‘We win because I have amazing players’. Huge club, amazing players. And the people say, ‘Ah, he’s humble. He is fake humble’.

Pep admits struggle to adapt to Premier League

“Now [they are telling me], ‘He won because he had amazing players’. Yeah, that’s true! I said years ago, it is normal!”

Boateng ruled out of Darmstadt fixture

Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that the key defender will miss his seventh game of the season when Bayern Munich travel to face the bottom dwellers

Jerome Boateng will miss Bayern Munich’s trip to Darmstadt on Sunday with a knock, Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed.

Mourinho’s new rock – Jones forms the base behind Man Utd upturn

Boateng has been troubled by injury issues this season, missing Bayern’s opening four games of the season before sitting out subsequent fixtures against Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid.

And Bayern boss Ancelotti has confirmed the defender will be absent once again when the Bundesliga leaders visit the division’s bottom club.

“Jerome Boateng will unfortunately not be available for Darmstadt,” Ancelotti told a press conference.

Man City injuries, suspensions and line-up vs Arsenal

“He has a slight knock so will sit it out.”

Bayern lead RB Leipzig on goal difference at the summit and Ancelotti is eager to build on a three-match winning run.

“We have trained very well this week,” he added. “It’s important that we bring the points home from Darmstadt.”