Wolfsburg - Asked for his thoughts on VfL Wolfsburg’s 4-1 thrashing of FC Bayern München in Friday’s Matchday 18 opener, Wolves goalkeeper Diego Benaglio surmised succinctly that “it’s not often you beat Bayern by such a high margin.”
Bayern on the ropes
That may be true, but victories of any kind over the record titleholders are so rare these days that the Kevin De Bruyne-inspired success still caused a tremor of disbelief among Bundesliga followers.
“Wolfsburg were the better team,” said Bayern coach Pep Guardiola afterwards. “They scored their goals at the right times - congratulations. Now we have to analyse what happened and focus on the next game.” Yet as good as the hosts were, Bayern appeared groggy as they slumped to a first league defeat of the season - and first under Guardiola without the championship already secured.
Xabi Alonso, normally so reliable in midfield, gave possession away cheaply on several occasions, while Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller were expertly marshalled by the Wolfsburg defence, who had little trouble repelling the unusual number of long balls Bayern were hitting forward. The visiting defence, which had only conceded four goals prior to the winter break, suddenly looked disorganised and extremely vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Neuer: ‘Not a disaster’
Yet those were merely symptoms of a greater malaise, as Jerome Boateng outlined after the final whistle. “We hardly won any challenges […] we weren't aggressive enough right from the start and we gave the ball away too easily,” he said. “We knew how we were supposed to stop them on the counter, but we didn't do it.”
Juan Bernat’s first competitive goal for the club was the only consolation for the Bavarians, although they do still boast an eight-point lead at the top of the standings. Indeed, with that in mind, Manuel Neuer was eager to keep things in perspective: “Obviously it's a bad start to the second half of the season. It's not how we imagined it going but it's not a disaster.”
Going into the business end of the season, it could in fact be quite the opposite - at least according to Boateng, who was determined to take the few positives from the encounter: “Maybe it's good it happened today, so that we can wake up.” His team-mate Arjen Robben agreed. “We need to analyse this defeat in depth and learn from it,” said the Dutchman. “It’s good that we’ve got another game straight away on Tuesday. We need to show a reaction there and get into our rhythm.”
FC Schalke 04 are the opponents who will be doing their utmost to prevent that happening on Tuesday. The Royal Blues can by buoyed by taking a point off the defending champions when the sides met earlier this season. Defeat at home for Bayern is almost unthinkable - but then again, prior to Matchday 18, so was the idea of them losing 4-1.