Bayern escape Wolves, but still hunted

Bayern will ride Mario Gomez's back to titles this year if he keeps scoring.  Photo: BundesligaAllianz Arena, Munich - Liam Neeson's new movie 'The Grey' is about plane crash survivors escaping killer wolves in the snow.  For FC Bayern München, they probably felt like they were being chased by wolves on a winter's afternoon.

Until Liam..., er, Mario Gomez saved them.

Gomez scored off his own failed header from a corner kick that VfL Wolfsburg could not clear in the 60th minute, and Arjen Robben finished off the match with a stoppage time goal as Munich escaped with a 2-0 over the Wolves.

For Gomez, it was his 118th goal in 200 Bundesliga matches, his 55th goal for FCB.  He continues to lead the league this season, he has 17, one more than Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of FC Schalke 04.

The win keeps Bayern on top of the standings over Borussia Dortmund and Schalke by only goal difference.  Dortmund defeated 1899 Hoffenheim 3-1 at home and the Royal Blues bested Cologne 4-1 on the the road to keep pace.

"The win was well-earned," remarked Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes.  "This gives us the security to keep it going in the next weeks."

The fall champions suffered a long week being questioned if they can win the title after stumbling at Borussia Monchengladbach last week and allowing their pursuers to catch up in the table. 

But Heynckes team reacted well and the match started with with Bayern on the offensive.  

Sensing the strength of their wingers against the shaky Wolfsburg backs, Munich were going to Franck Ribéry and Robben.  Both would drive towards goal, hoping to find holes in the middle for Thomas Müller and Gomez.

Numerous chances were stopped by vistors backline, or when Bayern could get a shot, Gomez or Müller couldn't finish. 

In the 7th minute, Philipp Lahm found Müller who attempted a shot, the Wolfsburg defense could not clear it, and Gomez pounced on it, heading it into the net, apparently giving the home side the lead.  But he was a step behind the line and offsides.

Again in the 40th Ribéry drove found Müller open in the area, but his shot was wide far post.

Felix Magath's Wolves were toothless in the first half, in fact the whole match, and there's not much to report on them.  A telling stat at halftime was possession that favored Bayern 67% to 33%.  Not much changed by the final whistle - 63-37 at the end.

Magath's men did play a little in the opening phases of the second half, perhaps giving the ex-Bayern coach the feeling he could steal a win from his former bosses.

Bayern defender Rafinha lost possession, Wolfsburg's Marcel Schäfer was alone drawing out Manuel Neuer.  The situation looked ripe for another Munich bumble and gift goal for the opponent, but Schäfer's pass was defended well by Bastian Schweinsteiger before a waiting Askhan Dejagah could finish.

As the clock reached an hour, Bayern took over the flow of the match.  And it turned when Ivica Olic entered the match.

Referee Felix Zwayer had not given any calls in Munich's favor close to goal until the 60th minute when Makoto Hasebe fouled Ribéry just outside the box, setting up a tasty free kick opportunity.

Toni Kroos kick found Gomez who could not get a clean hit, the ball dropped to the ground, right at the striker's foot and finally Bayern were on top, 1-0.

The pressure from Robbéry continued, and with the injected energy from Olic, Bayern pressed hard to cage the Wolves and get back in the win column.

Olic found a streaking Ribéry who was able to approach goal and launch a cracking strike.  However, Diego Benaglio made a fantastic save to keep Wolfsburg in it.

In the 85th minute, VfL got their best chances to equalize.  Schweinsteiger fouled substitute Giovanni Sio in front of the area, setting up another free kick.  Dejagah's kick was deflected out, but set up another corner.  Neuer secured that one.

Minutes later, another free kick in front for Wolfsburg, but Mario Mandzukic's kick went directly into the wall - it looked like handball by the Munich defense, but no call - and that was that.

Until Olic sprinted clear on a Lahm restart, Benaglio came off his line and the Croat chipped it over the charging goalkeeper.  Surely it's going in, but Felipe Lopes got there in time to hit it out.

FCB got their breakthrough after a tough week but there's still predators out there.  Photo: FC Bayern MünchenHowever, great hustle by Robben who was there, the pass off Lopes hit Robben and then into the net.  Munich could claim a 2-nil victory.

"Could we have played better, without question," admitted captain Lahm.  "However we can be satisfied that we won at home."

Robben agreed with Lahm.  "We didn't play well, but we battled and played more aggressive upfront than last week.  We have to keep working and improve, which we are doing."

With the win, Ribéry believes they will improve.  "It was a long week after (the loss at) Gladbach. but now we can be calm and not be stressed as we prepare for our next match."

Munich may have rediscovered a weapon in Olic, who was instrumental in their run to the Champions League final two seasons ago.  If they want to return to the final, this time in Munich on May 19th, they will need his contribution.

"I"m fit, I prepared well during our training and the friendlies during the break," said Olic.  "I haven't felt this good in a long time and I can only confirm this when I play."

Bayern travel north to take on Hamburger SV on Saturday, kickoff 18:30.  Dortmund and Schalke can now play the role of the wolves, lying in wait, nipping at Munich heels, ready to strike if the Reds slip up again.


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