Narrow win over Wolfsburg preserves party atmosphere

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Thomas MullerPA PhotosThomas Muller celebrates his goal for Bayern Munich.

Bayern Munich said a belated goodbye to Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo pre-match with flowers from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness. The Allianz Arena was packed with Bavarian costume and tradition, but VfL Wolfsburg, Gustavo new employers, were unimpressed by the Oktoberfest party atmosphere. The game remained deadlocked until Thomas Mueller finally broke through in the 63rd minute -- scoring the lone goal of the match.

Pep Guardiola restored his mostly first-choice lineup after the mid-week cup match. Jerome Boateng and David Alaba re-joined the back four with Rafinha and Dante. Single-pivot Philipp Lahm stood behind Arjen Robben, Thomas Mueller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery, with Mario Mandzukic up top.

Dieter Hecking's (hackings?) side played a defensive, pressing match; never really allowing Bayern a lot of space, especially befuddling the play of Franck Ribery and Mario Mandzukic. And although the Wolves ended the match with twice as many fouls as the home side (12/24), David Alaba was lucky not to see yellow in the opening minute for a high studs on Christian Traesch.

- Muller time for Bayern

Free kicks and corners for both sides ruled the opening minutes; both sides had great chances from headers. Gustavo caught Ricardo Rodriguez's corner to force the excellent Manuel Neuer in to a great reaction save. At the other end, Schweinsteiger headed just wide moments later.

Alaba somehow got a low free kick through the wall that might have been deflected goalwards by Boateng before Schweinsteiger saw yellow for pushing down Diego, who also saw yellow a minute later for a tackle of captain Lahm.

The corners and free kicks continued, with the best chance for Bayern in the first half wasted as Robben was denied by Diego Benaglio and Ivica Olic in quick succession.

Diego and Marcel Schaefer linked up nicely with the space that Rafinha was giving the winger -- Schaefer heading over the bar 15 minutes into the second half -- before Guardiola had enough of the stalemate, replacing Schweinsteiger with Toni Kroos and Robben with Xherdan Shaqiri. The latter made an immediate impression, linking up with Ribery, to help Mueller score for Bayern -- the Frenchman's off-day offset by his assist for Mueller's near post shot.

Brazilian Naldo showed up big at both ends of the field, clearing Mandzukic's shot off the line -- the Croatian had beaten Benaglio -- and eliciting a diving save from Neuer with a well-struck header. The last-gasp efforts by the Wolves prompted Guardiola into a defensive substitution for the last five minutes of the match -- Jan Kirchhoff came in for Mandzukic to preserve the 1-0 win for Bayern Munich.

Is this a case of looking ahead to Manchester City? You might say the Manc club did, losing to Aston Villa 3-2. But, credit to Wolfsburg for taking Bayern out of effective gameplay. They were the best side defensively die Roten have played yet.

Bayern Munich remain joint top of the Bundesliga table on points, with Borussia Dortmund four goals ahead on differential. There will be some things to ponder on the club's day off on Sunday, but for now? Three points is three points.


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