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Reds tame Wolves

Composed Bayern post 20th win of term

Bayern restored their 11-point overnight lead in the Bundesliga with a merited 2-0 win away to DFB Cup holders and fellow Champions League last sixteen hopefuls VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday, second half goals from Kingsley Coman and Robert Lewandowski proving enough to secure a 20th league win of the campaign.

The 30,000 capacity crowd at the VW Arena saw Pep Guardiola’s men set off at a furious pace and pin the Wolves back into their own third of the field, but the home side survived the onslaught and preserve the stalemate through to the interval. The champions upped the tempo after the break and VfL’s resistance finally crumbled when Coman broke the deadlock in the 66th minute and Lewandowski doubled the advantage eight minutes later.

The result means the Reds now have 62 points, once again 11 ahead of second-placed Borussia Dortmund prior to the black-and-yellows’ Sunday meeting with Hoffenheim. The Bavarians have two league fixtures in the coming week, the home clash with Mainz on Wednesday and the titanic showdown away to Dortmund in Der Klassiker next Saturday evening.

Vidal and Thiago on the bench

Bayern boss Guardiola made two changes to the team that drew with Juventus in the exhilarating midweek Champions League encounter, with Xabi Alonso taking over the anchoring duties from Arturo Vidal and Coman coming into the side in place of Thiago.

The rested pair were joined on the typically star-studded bench by the likes of Franck Ribery and Mario Götze. Rafinha missed the match with suspension after collecting a fifth yellow card of the season last weekend.

The visitors lined up with Manual Neuer in goal, Juan Bernat, David Alaba, Joshua Kimmich and skipper Philipp Lahm in the back four, Alonso in central midfield, and Thomas Müller, Douglas Costa, Arjen Robben, Coman and Lewandowski in a five-man forward line.

Early dominance fades

After referee Manuel Gräfe whistled play underway on a sunny but cold afternoon in Lower Saxony, the champions wasted no time creating a double chance with home keeper Koen Casteels beating out Coman’s second-minute effort and full-back Ricardo Rodriguez clearing Costa’s follow-up off the line.

The early pressure was intense with the FCB backline entrenched some 20 yards inside their opponents’ half, although Lahm and Robben both put shots wide, Naldo came within inches of an own goal from Alonso’s free-kick, and the Spanish world champion fired a drive inches wide of the upright.

The Wolves finally mustered a counter-attack after quarter of an hour but Neuer was untroubled by Julian Draxler’s tame effort, although Dieter Hecking’s men finally gained a toehold and the World’s Best Keeper had to scramble to keep out Max Kruse’s flicked header.

The league leaders soon reasserted control with Müller aiming too close to Casteels and the keeper clutching Lewandowski’s dangerous cut-back at the second attempt. Kruse and ex-FCB man Luiz Gustavo attempted to break the stranglehold with hopeful efforts and Brazilian centre-back Naldo cracked a free-kick straight down Neuer’s throat as the home team finally made a fight of it, but Marcel Schäfer dragged a gilt-edged opening wide of goal and an intriguing first half ended goalless.

Coman’s crucial opener

Guardiola made a change just four minutes into the second period with Thiago replacing Costa, although Rodriguez aimed the first chance of the half well wide. Müller had the ball in the net in the 54th minute but provider Lewandowski was harshly flagged offside, before the Pole blazed over from only eight yards after a superb lay-off from Müller. Ribery now replaced Robben as Munich shifted up a gear, forcing the home defence into a desperate rearguard action.

The pulse of the contest increased again on the hour with Alonso netting but seeing his effort chalked off for the ball previously crossing the by-line under Ribery’s feet, before Neuer palmed Draxler’s rising drive over the bar. Bayern were finally rewarded for their persistence on 66 minutes when Lewandowski’s shot ballooned up off a defender and Coman cushioned a volley past Casteels at the back stick to open the scoring.

The Bavarians chased a second goal with Casteels saving from Alonso, but Lewandowski went one better in the 74th minute, threading a shot past the home keeper from Coman’s inswinging cross and Ribery’s delicate lay-off. Even now there was no let-up, Lahm seeing his shot deflected for a corner, but Neuer too still had work to do in denying Kruse from ten yards. Sebastian Rode replaced the excellent Coman before the end of a deserved away success for Guardiola’s troops.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley