Bayern Munich continues to snap at the heels of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Hannover 96 in the Allianz Arena.
Three days after Bayern's penalty shootout victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach in the DFB Cup semi-final, coach Jupp Heynckes made two changes to the starting line-up, leaving out Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller in favour of Croatian duo Ivica Olic and Danijel Pranjic. Bastian Schweinsteiger was not included in the squad after his troublesome ankle injury flared up again in training.
This was a stormy affair, played in driving rain from the start, with Pranjic and Hannover's skipper Steven Cherundolo both collecting early cautions.
Hannover had only ever beaten Bayern once in Munich in Bundesliga history (2006), but it didn't show. It was clear from the early exchanges that there would be no repeat of the 'goal fests' of Bayern's previous two home games (7-1 and 6-0).
Mirko Slomka's side were typically well organised and looked to seize the initiative whenever possible. However, mistakes in midfield presented early chances to Olic (after 4 mins.) and Arjen Robben (8 mins.)
After 20 minutes, Bayern Captain Philipp Lahm surged forward to create a great opening for Franck Ribéry, but the Frenchman shot wastefully wide.
At the other end, ex-Manchester United striker Mame Biram Diouf spurned an opportunity after Manuel Neuer slipped, but Holger Badstuber's sliding tackle was enough to deny the Senegalese striker.
The record German champions increased their possession - and their pressure - as the first half wore on and were rewarded just before the break (36th min.) when Toni Kroos lifted the ball nonchalantly over Ron-Robert Zieler in the Hannover goal, after Ribéry and Robben had combined brilliantly from the left.
Coach Heynckes made two changes around the hour mark, bringing on Ukrainian Anatoliy Tymoshchuk for Pranjic and Mario Gomez for Olic (who has scored only two goals this season).
'Super Mario' continued his rich vein of form, doubling the lead in the 67th minute after a surging run and slide-rule left foot finish. Gomez now has 23 league goals to his name this season.
The visitors refused to lie down, however, and in the 74th minute a Jan Schlaudraff (ex-Bayern) cross was met with a cushioned Diouf header and an impressive overhead kick from substitute Ya Konan reduced the arrears.
Hannover 96 almost snatched an unlikely equaliser in the final ten minutes when first Diouf shot over the bar and Neuer showed great agility to prevent a Jerome Boateng own-goal. But Bayern had done more than enough to notch their seventh successive Bundesliga home victory and keep their treble hopes alive.