Wolfsburg - FC Bayern Munich laid the ideal foundations for next week's UEFA Champions League clash against Arsenal FC with a hard-fought 2-0 win against VfL Wolfsburg on Friday night.
Mario Mandzukic refused to celebrate his spectacular opener upon his return to the Volkswagen Arena and with goalmouth action subsequently scarce, Arjen Robben's late strike ultimately made sure Bayern collected a record-breaking tenth away win of the season, stretching their already-impressive lead at the top of the table further still.
Both head coaches made changes to their starting line-ups, with Mandzukic and Wolfsburg's Ivica Olic each handed starts against their respective former employers. The visitors unsurprisingly got themselves on the front foot early on and Thomas Müller's header wide after three minutes was an indication of Bayern's intent. Yet with the Wolves adopting a risk-averse approach, chances were at a premium in the opening exchanges.
There was a lack of recognisable rhythm to proceedings, with neither side afforded time on the ball. Mandzukic sliced a half-chance off target, but in truth Diego Benaglio and Manuel Neuer remained untested for much of the first half.
Indeed, it took over half an hour for the visitors to finally make their mark as Bastian Schweinsteiger's knockdown from a Toni Kroos free-kick found Mandzukic, who produced a superb overhead kick that left Benaglio rooted to the spot. Winded, Wolfsburg struggled their way to the interval.
The record titleholders came out of the changing rooms determined to add to their narrow lead and would have done so had Naldo and Alexander Madlung not produced last-ditch blocks to twice deny Müller his twelfth goal of the season. Bayern were in complete control, dragging Wolfsburg left and right courtesy of their efficient combination play, yet the decisive final ball often proved elusive.
Wolves lack bite
In the opposite direction, Wolfsburg laboured to penetrate the visitors' disciplined backline, often leading to hopeful, ineffective efforts from range. That said, the home side could well have equalised when Diego's curling free-kick drew a sprawling save out of Neuer. Substitute Ivan Perisic snatched at the rebound.
As the game entered its latter stages, Wolfsburg threw everything forward in search of an equaliser but in doing so left themselves vulnerable on the counter. Lively substitute Robben took full advantage, slamming home his first Bundesliga goal of the season late on to wrap up an ultimately comfortable Bayern win.
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