In the Bundesliga's last match of the weekend, FC Bayern knocked off VfB Stuttgart to extend the lead atop the table. Mario Mandzukic fired home after rounding Stuttgart 'keeper Sven Ulreich to give Bayern the lead. Die Roten picked up another when Mandzu found Mueller after a long run, and held on for a comfortable win.
The first half started off lively enough, with both sides looking to push forward and several odd-man runs leading to chances. Bayern arguably had the better of it, with Ribery and Alaba again threatening with overlapping runs, but VfB also caused problems. After 6 minutes, it looked like we might have a high-scoring shoot-out; both clubs were passing well and creating chances, and both were happy to bring defenders forward.
But the frantic pace didn't last, and the match soon settled into what Bayern supporters have become acclimated to: Die Roten controlling possession and trying to break down an opponent's defense, Stuttgart trying to hit us on the counter. The best chance of the first half came for VfB, though, as a 2-on-2 break lead to Harnik's attempt to sneak the ball past Neuer from a tight angle. It looked like the ball might have hit Neuer, then the post, then Neuer managed to gobble it up ... or, it possibly touched off a Stuttgart player right before Neuer grabbed it. Either way, it was a nervy moment for Bayern supporters, but the match went into the half tied at 0.
Less than 10 minutes into the 2nd, VfB's Christian Molinaro gave Bayern a gift with a lazy back-pass that was stolen by an alert Mario Mandzukic. With only the 'keeper to beat, Mandzu calmly took an extra dribble and then slotted it home from the right side:
Perhaps a luck stroke for Bayern. But good vs. bad luck often cancels out, and this was the case again today, as Toni Kroos was clearly pushed while lining up a shot in the area, and play was waved on. At that point, there was still a chance this non-call could prove important, as Bayern's lead was a single goal (though VfB had done rather little to threaten at all in the second half). At any rate, Bayern put the match in the bag a few minutes later. Again Mandzukic was the man, this time running the ball down in the near corner and finding Mueller at the end of his perfectly timed run:
Although VfB played pretty well for the first hour, they never felt like a threat to get back in the match after they went down by 2. The only questions remaining to be answered were: (1) would Gomez get on the pitch in front of his old club [yes]; and (2) would Bayern get another goal to make the score-line more emphatic [no, although Kroos came close once, and we had a spell of pressure at the very end].
- After a brief good spell, we're back to failing to do anything on free kicks and corners. When Kroos took one from the left channel in the first half, and no one could get anywhere near his lob into the area, I though "man, maybe we could just try shooting from one of these." But then Alaba tried that from the right side a few minutes later, and lofted the ball harmlessly over.
- With the win, Bayern now has an 11 point lead over Leverkusen. So far, we're 2-for-2 in our identified "first portion of the second half," with 3 to go. Next week, though, we face a Mainz side that has been playing very well.
Back with more tonight or tomorrow. As always, thanks for reading.