Bayern shook off the disappointment of last Friday’s lacklustre performance in Moenchengladbach to register a 2-0 win over Wolfsburg that keeps the Reds at the top of the Bundesliga table.
In game that was rarely pretty and saw some fierce challenges from both sides, goals from Mario Gomez on the hour and Arjen Robben in stoppage time at the end clinched victory over a visiting side that only sporadically came out looking for a goal before they fell behind.
The returning Franck Ribéry added pace and ideas to Bayern’s game, and it was one of his many dribbling runs that produced the free-kick leading to the first goal. Gomez might have eased Bayern’s nerves by scoring early on, but it was his strength in the penalty area that resulted in the breakthrough.
The visitors, who had former Bayern head coach Felix Magath on the bench, were the first to threaten. In the 6th minute Mario Mandzukic had the game’s first goal attempt, but he drove a shot over Manfred Neuer’s bar from the edge of the area.
In the following minute Gomez, marking his 200th Bundesliga appearance, had a goal disallowed for the Reds. The prolific striker was adjudged just offside when he turned the ball home after Diego Benaglio had parried Thomas Müller’s shot.
Philipp Lahm gave the home crowd a fright when he failed to get enough power on a header back to his goalkeeper. Ashkan Dejagah seized onto the ball deep in the Bayern area, but his shot from a tight angle flew harmlessly across Neuer’s goal.
As the home side got into their stride they started to press Wolfsburg back into their own half. Gomez nearly gave Bayern the breakthrough in the 19th minute when he ran onto a lofted through ball from Bastian Schweinsteiger and found himself alone in front of Benaglio, but the visitors’ goalkeeper somehow managed to block the ball with his feet.
With more than half an hour played Bayern were controlling the game, with Ribéry at the heart of most of their most promising moves, but obdurate defending by the Saxons prevented the home team capitalising on their larger share of possession.
However, in the 40th minute the Frenchman almost conjured up the opening goal when he cut in from the left and pulled the ball back from the byline, but Müller’s close-range shot bobbled agonisingly wide of the far post. A minute later Bayern might have had a penalty when Ribéry was brought down in the area by Petr Jiracek, but the referee waved play on.
As the first half drew to a close Bayern had a minor scare when Schweinsteiger did well to block a menacing low cross from Mandzukic, but the two sides went in at the break level, with the Reds unable to turn their dominance into goals.
The home team continued to press after the break, but continued to struggle to break down a well-organised defence. At times the tackling was rugged, and Marco Russ became the first player to be cautioned in the 47th minute.
The breakthrough eventually came on the hour mark after Ribéry was barged off the ball on the left-hard edge of the penalty area by Makoto Hasebe, who was booked in turn. When Toni Kroos whipped in the free-kick, Gomez saw his close-range header blocked, but the ball fell kindly and he swept the ball home with Benaglio helpless.
In the 65th minute Luis Gustavo replaced Müller in the Bayern midfield, while Giovanni Sio took the place of Jiracek in the visitors’ line-up, and with just over a quarter of an hour left Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes sent on Ivica Olic for Gomez.
Ribéry had a chance to wrap up the victory in the 80th minute when he ran into space on the right but saw his fierce shot beaten away by Benaglio. Seconds later a more difficult chance fell to Gustavo, who looped the ball over the bar from a similar position.
Rafinha became the third player to see yellow after a full-blooded challenge on Koo Ja-Cheol, and as Wolfsburg pressed for an equaliser the Bayern defence had to defend a series of free-kicks in dangerous positions. From one, fired into the wall by Mandzukic, the visitors appealed for handball against Jérôme Boateng, but the referee ruled that any contact was accidental.
Two minutes from the end Ribéry went off to well-deserved applause from the crowd and was replaced by 19-year-old David Alaba, but a minute into stoppage time, the result was settled by Bayern’s second goal, scored slightly fortunately by Arjen Robben.
Olic broke the Wolfsburg offside trap and lobbed the ball over the advancing Benaglio. As the ball bounced toward the goal, Ricardo Rodriguez hooked it off the line, but it bounced off the Dutchman, who was following up, and finished in the back of the net.