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Five observations from Bayern Munich’s hard-fought 1-0 win over VfB Stuttgart


Bayern Muenchen Training and Press Conference Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

#1: #SvenTheWall saves the day, Part I

Sven Ulreich is in the midst of a mid-career, star-making turn. The head-scratching, nervy moments from Ulreich earlier this season under Carlo Ancelotti have given way to unwavering, sign-Ulreich-to-an-extension confidence from Jupp Heynckes, which is the ultimate gift.

Ulreich preserved the win by saving a VAR-awarded, stoppage-time penalty kick by Chadrac Akolo and denying former Bayern defender Holger Badstuber’s 89th-minute header with a reflex stop.

Ulreich also denied Akolo’s searing low drive in the seventh minute, which could have put Bayern in an early hole. Ulreich’s heroics also came under a cacophony of whistles from the crowd at Mercedes-Benz Arena, where Ulreich formerly plied his trade as VfB’s longtime No. 1 goalkeeper.

With Manuel Neuer signaling this week that his recovery is progressing but he is nowhere near playing, a confident, shot-stopping Ulreich, who is capable of both preserving, and even stealing, matches is vital as Bayern continues to chase three trophies (did not want to jinx it by mentioning a treble, oh wait, oops!). Ulreich’s play should have him in consideration for Die Mannschaft if Neuer’s recovery is not complete. As the brilliant moments become more commonplace and less of an outlier, it’s impossible not to consider the starting German goalkeeper for Germany’s biggest club not being in the mix for national team for the upcoming friendlies in March and ultimately the World Cup in Russia this summer.

#2: Muller saves the day, Part II

The importance of Thomas Muller to Bayern Munich is truly apparent in moments such as his 79th-minute, match-winning goal.

If Muller is on the pitch while Bayern is chasing a goal in a tight contest, there is the pervasive feeling that somehow he will either score it or create it in true Raumdeuter fashion. The constant chatter is: When will goal-scoring form of the 2015-16 season come back to present-day Muller? The answer is maybe is starts with a moment like this where Muller’s ability to score or create something from nothing is part of the effort produces a goal that helps secure three points.

#3: If VfB only had a goal-scoring threat

Stuttgart is a physical, hard-tackling team, which is also compact in shape, hard to break down. Ron-Robert Zieler is an excellent shot-stopping goalkeeper and the back three of Holger Badstuber, Benjamin Pavard and Timo Baumgartl provides veteran stability in the center (Badstuber) flanked by two promising young players (Pavard, Baumgartl). Pavard is an interesting case as he is the ability to play multiple positions on the right side and his play has brought him into the senior setup for France. Going forward, however, is another story. VfB has struggled to score goals this season (13 in 17 Bundesliga matches) and the dearth of goal scoring could force the Swabians to walk the relegation tightrope yet again.

#4: These types of wins are spine of title-winning teams

This is the third straight 1-0 win for Bayern, which came into the match with a 15 consecutive wins over Stuttgart in all competitions. To eventually reach its 16th straight win versus VfB, Bayern had to churn and earn it. Winning ugly matches, some times in succession, is one of the best attributes of the chief mentality of any title-winning team. This was the fourth 1-0 win this season for Bayern, all of which have come since Heynckes took over the team and only one of those wins has been against a side currently in the top of the table. More importantly, Bayern does not have any 1-0 losses this season.

#5: Bayern in good shape heading into die Winterpause

Bayern are 11 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga table over Schalke as of this writing, though RB Leipzig could close to within 10 points on Sunday with a win. Either way, Bayern will have double-digit lead over the chasing pack at die Winterpause and that is a favorable position.

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