PLZEN, Czech Republic (Reuters) - Bayern Munich booked a spot in the last 16 of the Champions League when a second-half goal from the head of Mario Mandzukic gave them a 1-0 win over a dogged Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday.
The Bavarians won their ninth straight match in the competition, equaling the record set by Barcelona in 2002-2003.
In a first half that ended goalless, Bayern had a tough time breaking down the Czech champions who looked dangerous on the break for much of the night.
Bayern players bemoaned their slow start and vowed to do better against CSKA Moscow in three weeks, saying they were nearly made to pay dearly for their mistakes.
“It was certainly no festival for us,” midfielder Toni Kroos said. “We gave away the ball far too often up front. We had almost no chances in the first half.”
“We did not exactly cover ourselves in glory tonight but the win is all that matters,” midfielder Thomas Mueller told uefa.com. “We still probably will not be celebrating with a bottle of champagne in the dressing room.”
Mandzukic, who replaced a largely ineffective Mueller in the second half, made an almost immediate impact by breaking the deadlock in the 65th minute when he slipped past his marker to head a lofting Philipp Lahm cross past Plzen keeper Matus Kozacik.
The win, coupled with Manchester City’s victory against CSKA in the other Group D qualifying match, scuttled any hopes Plzen had of going into the next round.
The Czech side set out to attack from the start and never let the Bavarians get into their rhythm during the first half but they missed a golden chance in the 36th minute when Daniel Kolar outjumped his marker to head captain Pavel Horvath’s cross just wide.
After the restart, Bayern picked up the pace and French international Franck Ribery almost scored in the 56th minute when his shot from just inside the penalty area was deflected by Kozacik.
The German side came close to doubling their lead late in the second half when Mario Goetze only had the keeper to beat but he could not get a clear shot.
Plzen, beaten 3-0 by Manchester City at home in September, continued to push forward and narrowly missed several chances in the second half.
Defender Frantisek Rajtoral said he was happy with the result given Bayern’s 5-0 thrashing of his side in Munich two weeks ago.
“We have to be happy because we had chances,” he told Czech television. “We showed we can play with anybody.”
Bayern’s victory put them on 12 points at the top of Group D, while Plzen remain without any points.
Reporting by Michael Kahn, Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by Clare Fallon