BERLIN (AP) Douglas Costa’s fine second-half strike was enough for Bayern Munich to return to the top of the Bundesliga with a labored 1-0 win at bottom side Darmstadt on Sunday.
Bayern leads on goal difference from promoted Leipzig before the sides meet in Munich on Wednesday.
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It seemed the defending champions were already looking ahead to the next game as they produced an uninspired performance against Darmstadt, which had fired coach Norbert Meier on Monday after six straight losses.
“It wasn’t FC Bayern,” goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said.
The home side made a bright start under interim coach Ramon Berndroth. Bayern needed Thiago Alcantara to make a last-ditch block to deny Sandro Sirigu on a counterattack prompted by Arturo Vidal’s wayward pass seconds after kickoff.
Jan Rosenthal went close for the hosts after a corner minutes later and Bayern didn’t threaten until the 40th, when Mats Hummels’ penalty appeal went unheeded. TV replays showed the Germany defender was fouled by Mario Vrancic. Thomas Mueller drew a save from Michael Esser in the Darmstadt goal early in the second half.
But Bayern looked short of ideas against the hard-working Darmstadt, which was running more and restricting the visitors’ space. Another lost ball from Vidal had coach Carlo Ancelotti throw his hands up in exasperation on the sidelines. The Chilean midfielder made way for Franck Ribery with over 20 minutes remaining.
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A moment of individual brilliance was needed for the breakthrough and it came from Costa in the 71st, when the Brazilian let fly with a superb swerving strike from 25 meters (yards) into the goal off the underside of the crossbar.
Peter Niemeyer should have equalized from the rebound when Neuer stopped Jerome Gondorf’s free kick but the Darmstadt defender headed straight back at the Bayern `keeper with the goal beckoning.
“In the end the most important thing is to win and stay first. So I’m satisfied,” Ancelotti said. “But we can play better and faster. We’ll give our best against Leipzig on Wednesday.”
In Sunday’s other Bundesliga match, Ingolstadt earned a much-needed victory at Bayer Leverkusen.
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Previously bottom Ingolstadt climbed above Hamburger SV into the relegation playoff place with its second successive win, while Leverkusen fans whistled their side off at halftime and again at full time in frustration.
Alfredo Morales put the visitors in front midway through the first half with a powerful header from Markus Suttner’s fine cross.
It got worse for Leverkusen early in the second half when Charles Aranguiz earned his second yellow card for a check on Anthony Jung after losing the ball.
But the sending off seemed to spur a response from the home side, which equalized in the 63rd through Admir Mehmedi just after Almog Cohen should have scored at the other end.
The Israeli midfielder atoned for his miss with what proved to be the winner 10 minutes later.