Bayern Munich went 18 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga on Friday with a 2-0 victory at VfL Wolfsburg as they move ever closer to the German title.
With Tuesday’s trip to Arsenal looming in the Champions League last-16, first-leg tie, Bayern did enough to see off 12th-placed Wolfsburg without picking up injuries.
It was Munich’s 18th win from 22 matches and with second-placed Borussia Dortmund hosting Eintracht Frankfurt yesterday, Bayern took the chance to further extend their massive lead.
“We played against a team who certainly produced their best game of the season. They gave their all,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said.
“Wolfsburg were aggressive, ran hard and disturbed our game early on. These are the games we must win, but we showed we have a great team,” he said.
Against his former club, Mario Mandzukic again proved why Germany’s Mario Gomez must be content with a place on Bayern’s bench.
The Croat gave Munich a first-half lead by claiming his sixth goal in four Bundesliga games, taking his tally in all matches to 17 for the season.
Gomez and Arjen Robben, who has also been relegated to the bench recently, came on for the last 10 minutes and the Dutch star hit his first league goal of the season to double Bayern’s lead in stoppage time.
The win was Munich’s 10th away victory in 11 league matches this season and their fifth consecutive clean sheet away from home in the Bundesliga.
Heynckes, who will step down as coach at season’s end to be replaced by Pep Guardiola, looks set to end Bayern’s three-year wait for silverware in May with at least the Bundesliga shield.
Having conceded just seven goals in 22 games all season, Bayern have leaked just one of those away from home — in the 1-1 draw at Nuremberg in November.
If they keep winning, Bayern can be crowned champions as early as mid-April and are on course to break their own record of 30 matches, set in the 1972-1973 season, for the earliest confirmed league title victory.
Despite their current rich-vein of form, this was a below-par performance from Bayern, who were lacking Javi Martinez in midfield.
His replacement, Brazil’s Luiz Gustavo did not provide the same fluid service alongside Germany star Bastian Schweinsteiger, while France wing Franck Ribery had a quiet night on the left flank.
“We got the result against a very aggressive team,” Schweinsteiger said. “We had some early opportunities, but we didn’t play well. It was a tough away game, there were many tough one-on-ones, so I am happy with the performance.”
The opener came on 36 minutes as Schweinsteiger won the battle for the ball from a Toni Kroos free-kick and his header was superbly drilled home by Mandzukic’s bicycle kick.
Robben seized his chance to remind Heynckes of what he can do as he collected Thomas Mueller’s pass and buried his shot past Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio just before the final whistle.