Bendtner leads Wolfsburg over Bayern Munich on penalties in German Super Cup clash

Nicklas Bendtner was the unlikely hero of the German Super Cup, scoring a last-gasp equalizer and netting the winning penalty kick to claim the first title of the season for Wolfsburg.

Last season’s DFB Pokal winners beat Bayern Munich with a 5-4 shootout victory at the Volkswagen Arena following a 1-1 draw inside 90 minutes. Arjen Robben scored early in the second half but an inspired substitution from Dieter Hecking helped Wolfsburg fight back late in the match — Bendtner scoring on 88 minutes.

The much-maligned center-forward then stepped up to strike home the winning penalty kick, leaving Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich without the Super Cup prize in their last three attempts.

For 88 minutes, the German champions were in pole position to lay down an early season marker with 25 million euro signing Douglas Costa adding a sprinkling of extra quality on the left.

Costa immediately looked like he had something to prove, crushing Vieirinha in a one-on-one duel with an explosive burst of raw speed. His cut back in the first minute was smashed wide by Xabi Alonso.

Alonso was key to Bayern’s next move — equally as direct, as he crossed to Jerome Boateng who cushioned the ball at the back-post and cannoned the ball against the crossbar on eight minutes.

All eyes were on how Pep Guardiola shaped his team for the first ‘competitive’ outing of the season. The league champions started the game with a back-four. But with Philipp Lahm interchanging between defense and midfield, the balance turned to a back-three, a system that Pep has used in the past.

However, Bayern looked somewhat out-of-sync in their collective positioning with Alonso shielding the back-three, Thomas Muller roaming languidly in the central positions and Thiago Alcantara virtually non-existent. Considering the former Barcelona starlet has threatened to be Bayern’s most indispensable player this season, which would have been a worrying sign for Guardiola.

On 21 minutes, Wolfsburg began to look menacing — Kevin de Bruyne linking with Ivan Perisic before the Croatian’s strike was clutched by Manuel Neuer. Three minutes later, from a set-piece, Perisic’s flick-on narrowly evaded the on-rushing Joshua Guilavogui at the back-post.

For a moment, though, we were reminded of Costa’s devastating gallops forward in the 26th minute. The Brazilian joined Robert Lewandowski on a finely-tuned counterattack, the Polish striker drawing the ball back for Costa who had the simple task of scoring, yet his return pass was intercepted.

But the later chunk of the first-half was dominated by last season’s Cup winners. Perisic –€“ who has been on the radar of Inter Milan this summer — carried the ball down the wing on 31 minutes, fired in a dangerous cross, which clipped Mehdi Benatia and forced Neuer into a superb reaction save.

The Moroccan and Neuer were the chief architects of Wolfsburg’s best chance of the half, the pair suffering a clear breakdown in communication on the edge of the penalty box. But De Bruyne’s instinctive lob towards the empty goal landed just a few yards at the right side of the post.

The second half mirrored the first few minutes of the match in Wolfsburg as the impressive newcomer to German football made his mark. Costa, direct, ran at Vieirinha on the left-side, hammering the ball across the face of goal with Robben feeding off the scrap and slamming home the opening goal.

Costa’s individual style — the direct running, pace and off-the-cuff play — was absent from Bayern’s play at key moments last season. That problem was compounded whenever Robben was on the sidelines with injury.

Elsewhere on the pitch, however, Bayern appeared to be quite stale. The asymmetrical formation not functioning quite as Guardiola would have intended. In defense, Bayern showed vulnerability — particularly when Bas Dost was able to charge through the middle despite his shot barely threatening Neuer on the hour mark.

Just as the match descended into the pre-season encounter that many regard it as, Guardiola introduced his major signing of the summer –€“ Arturo Vidal. The Chilean cost Bayern around 35 million euros this summer, the club’s third most expensive recruit behind Javi Martinez and Mario Gotze.

As expected, the former Juventus midfielder caused a mini-storm. He tried to take the reins in the middle of the pitch, but was doing most of his work off-the-ball. Three tackles into his debut in German football and he picked up his customary yellow card to the ironic cheers of the home supporters.

Two minutes from the end, Wolfsburg struck to take the game to penalties – and typically, the creative spark came from Manchester City’s number one target, De Bruyne. The Belgian’s cross from the right-flank was expertly turned into the net by former Arsenal striker Bendtner who arrived at the front-post with precise timing.

In the shootout, Vidal and Ricardo Rodriguez scored for either team but Alonso’s kick was cleared by the boot of Koen Casteels to hand Wolfsburg the advantage. De Bruyne, Robben, Andre Schurrle, Max Kruse and Douglas Costa all scored from 12 yards before Bendtner stepped up and won the title for Hecking’s side.