Bayern Munich, playing without talisman Arjen Robben because of a thigh problem, missed a chance to open a six-point gap in the Bundesliga race when they were held to a tense, 0-0 draw at Borussia Moenchengladbach Sunday.
With Robben left at home and Franck Ribery available only as a second half substitute, Bayern was missing its wide attacking options which have shredded so many opponents this season. As a result, they couldn’t find a way past a rugged opponent, and had to settle for a four-point edge over Gladbach, VfL Wolfsburg and TSG Hoffenheim, all of whom are on 17 points after nine matches.
The draw interrupted a four-match Bayern league winning streak as both teams remained unbeaten in Bundesliga play.
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Not surprisingly, Gladbach elected to play it tight, defending in depth and making the Bayern midfield work hard to look for openings. That meant the home team was relying almost entirely on counter-attacks but they did make the best chance of the opening half in exactly that way. After Mario Goetze and Philipp Lahm combined to win a Bayern corner, Gladbach swept the other way off the delivery that was just too high for Dante to head. Max Kruse wound up with an open run at Manuel Neuer, the Bayern keeper winning that duel with a one-hand save low to his left in the 34th minute.
The closest Bayern came to an opening goal was seven minutes later when Robert Lewandowski’s drive from the top of the box deflected off Alvaro Dominguez and trickled just wide of the left post with Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer wrong-footed.
Gladbach opened things up a bit after the interval and took much more of the play to the defending champions but did it without losing their defensive shape. Neuer had to be outstanding to deny Andre Hahn in the 52nd minute as Gladbach again countered swiftly and Kruse found himself the conductor of a 3-on-2 raid. He spotted Hahn on the right but the German international keeper was equal to the challenge again. Raffael made Neuer produce another fine stop in the 78th minute with a low drive to the near post that Neuer dove to turn away for a corner.
As usual, Bayern had plenty of the ball and was always looking for the telling final angle but in fact they did not make Sommer work hard enough in the Gladbach goal. When Xherdan Shaqiri headed into Juan Bernat’s path in the 89th minute the resulting shot flew past Sommer’s far post rather than testing the keeper. Claudio Pizarro did better in stoppage time, but Sommer beat him with a sliding stop.
VfL Wolfsburg, showing no signs of fatigue from its Europa League endeavors in midweek, dominated FSV Mainz in the earlier match to move into third place in the table on goal-difference.
Naldo scored once and set up the second for Ivan Perisic while both Ivica Olic and Maximilian Arnold would have found themselves on the scoresheet on another day. Olic believed he had scored in the 12th minute but Mainz keeper Loris Karius somehow smothered the ball on the goal line. Karius could do nothing three minutes later when Naldo came through clean to power in his header to Marcel Schafer’s corner kick. Perisic missed a chance in the 24th minute and Karius beat Kevin De Bruyne in the 51st before Wolfsburg put the game beyond reach.
This time Naldo rose near the top of the box to head a corner kick forward. Perisic met it five yards from goal and placed his header neatly in the 59th minute. Arnold had two good chances before Junior Malanda set up Daniel Caligiuri at the far post for an 87th minute strike that made the scoreline reflect the difference between the sides.