Brilliant Muller puts Bayern on his back; Wolfsburg hold Hertha
Thomas Müller scored two exceptional second half goals to avoid what would have been one of the biggest upsets in the Bundesliga’s 53-year history.
As a result of Sandro Wagner’s opener, Darmstadt, who was almost out of business altogether in 2008, led the record German champions for just over 20 minutes at the Allianz Arena. But Josep Guardiola’s men put their poor first-half performance to bed at the interval, coming out of the traps to turn the game around, extending the lead at the top to 11 points until Sunday afternoon when Borussia Dortmund is in action.
For the 6,000 travelling Darmstadt supporters, this will be an occasion they will not forget in a hurry. At the same stage of the season in 2012-13, the club was bottom of the third-division and were only saved from relegation by financial implosions elsewhere. Two successive promotions later, the Lillies is battling in the Bundesliga and turned a routine afternoon for Bayern into a dogged scrap.
Things aren’t going too swimmingly for Guardiola at the minute. Bayern fans held up a banner reading, “Pep was never our thing, anyway” as the schism between the Manchester City-bound coach and the club and supporters widens ahead of the Champions League in Turin next week. In recent months, since he announced his exit in December, there have been spats with the media, conflict with medical staff amid a serious injury headache for the club and leaks coming from within the dressing room.
Against a side missing five first-team players through suspension, Bayern’s dominance couldn’t be turned into goals. The Bavarians had 82% possession and led nine shots to nil midway through the first half. In the 26th minute, goalie Christian Mathenia denied Arjen Robben, one-against-one with a fine block.
But as soon as he released the ball, the visitors launched a decisive raid on the Bayern rearguar and taking a sensational lead. Junior Diaz, the Costa Rican at full-back, saw his cross cleared only as far as Sandro Sirigu who returned the ball back into the mixer, where Wagner’s header beat Manuel Neuer.
Sandro Wagner, above all, has perhaps embodied everything about Darmstadt this season. A player who has dealt with numerous setbacks in his career, the 28-year-old has scored eight goals and has become the talisman for Dirk Schuster.
There was a second test of Bayern’s defensive credentials on the break, but despite the header forcing Neuer into a save, the referee blew for a foul. At halftime, remarkably, Schuster’s men were leading the German champions by a single goal at the Allianz Arena.
The lead lasted just three minutes, and it was Müller’s brilliance that decided the game. The German scored with a superbly-controlled chest and volley finish on 48 minutes before finishing off from close range with a superb, acrobatic overhead kick on 70 minutes — Bayern has now won its last 50 games when Müller has scored. Robert Lewandowski got in on the act with five minutes left, scoring his 22nd goal of the season after grabbing a double at Augsburg last weekend.
Meanwhile, Borussia Mönchengladbach kept a clean sheet for the first time in 12 games, sealing the derby bragging rights with a 1-0 win over Cologne.
Having lost three of its four games this calendar year, the wheels have come off Gladbach’s push for a UEFA Champions League place. The Foals took the lead on eight minutes when Raffael sliced open the away defense, with his 10th assist of the season, laying off to Mo Dahoud. The Syrian-born midfielder elegantly strolled past his marker and caressed the ball into the corner of the net for his third of the campaign.
Despite the animosity between the two well-supported clubs, Gladbach fans showed solidarity with the 1,000-or-so Cologne supporters who boycotted the game in protest against the personalization of match tickets. The away fans would have only had a few things to cheer about, as their three-game unbeaten run comes to a close.
Elsewhere, 28-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann saw his side secure a huge win at home against Mainz. Hoffenheim, with two wins all season, looked rejuvenated and one of Nagelsmann’s former youngsters Nadiem Amiri cancelled out an early goal from Jhon Cordoba to send the hosts on their way. Mark Uth scored two more second half goals to prompt big celebrations at the final whistles as the relegation battle takes another dramatic twist.
An 11th minute goal from Ingolstadt’s Bruno Hübner, the club’s earliest Bundesliga strike, and a last-gap kick from Lukas Hinterseer secured a win over Werder Bremen, who remains third-from-bottom with a two-point cushion over Hoffenheim. Ingolstadt, founded in 2004 and its debut Bundesliga season, is up to 10th after 22 games.
In Berlin, Hertha equalized through Salomon Kalou to claim a point against Wolfsburg who took the lead early in the second half courtesy of Marcel Schäfer’s strike. Wolfsburg, eighth in the table, are five points behind Hertha who are still in third-place, despite failing to win all of their matches in the second half of the campaign.