Wolfsburg open 2015 with emotional win over leaders Bayern Munich
VfL Wolfsburg got two goals from Bas Dost, their new attack leader, and two more from the impeccable Kevin De Bruyne to give the second half of Bundesliga season an unexpected kick-start Friday night, stunning previously unbeaten Bayern Munich and making a league title race seem at least possible.
The decisive and emotional 4-1 victory means Wolfsburg trails the leaders by eight points after a night when Bayern had been expected to stamp its complete authority on affairs turned into a remarkable rout.
Bayern had not lost a domestic game since April 3, 2014 when Borussia Dortmund handed them a 3-0 reversal and had won 14 of 17 first round matches while conceding only three draws. They had not conceded two goals in a Bundesliga match this season before Friday night’s first half and had allowed only four in the entire first half of the league campaign. Wolfsburg matched that in 90 minutes.
The win also solidified the Wolves’ hold on second place, pushing them nine points clear of third-place Bayer Leverkusen.
De Bruyne also set up one goal to join Dost and Maximilian Arnold, with two brilliant long pass assists, in leading the Wolfsburg parade. Juan Bernat got Bayern’s only reply.
Wolfsburg remembered the late Junior Malanda, killed in a Jan. 10 automobile accident, with a minute’s applause before the kickoff and it took just four minutes after that emotional tribute for Wolfsburg to show that this would be a special evening for the home crowd.
Daniel Caligiuri was the man whose precise pass down the inside right channel found De Bruyne with the speed and space to create a 2-on-1 opportunity. De Bruyne slid the final pass to his left, Dost had an open net and Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer didn’t have a chance.
Caligiuri was playing a more advanced position with Vieirinha at the back so when the ball broke forward he was there to quickly pick apart the Bayern defense. Dost, who had won the starting job before the break, will now shoulder the front-runner’s burden with veteran Ivica Olic’s move to Hamburger SV.
He drifted neatly into space and De Bruyne, who has been the Bundesliga’s most polished assist-provider this season spotted the open finisher. Another terrific Wolfsburg counter, started by Naldo, could have produced a second goal in the 41st minute but Dost failed to get a controlled touch on the final pass and saw his chance fade well away to the right. He made no such error four minutes later.
In first half stoppage time it was a Dante foul which set up Ricardo Rodriguez’ free kick on the right that opened the door. The Swiss international delivered toward the far post, Bayern could only head it weakly away and Dost, on the 18-yard line, vollied wonderfully into the top right corner, his shot striking the inside of the post well beyond the helpless Neuer.
Just after the restart, Josep Guardiola sent on young Mitchell Weiser to see if he could inject something into the Bayern attack but it was Wolfsburg which drove home its advantage instead.
Arnold made the play with a precise, 35-yard pass to De Bruyne, onside near the halfway line when the counter began. With only Neuer to beat as he ran alone down the center of the Bayern half, De Bruyne measured his finish to the left corner in the 53rd minute.
The three-goal cushion lasted less than two minutes, however, when Bernat got open on the left from a Robert Lewandowski pass and wound up scoring a rather fortunate goal. Bernat attempted a return pass but Naldo’s attempted clearance misfired, hit Bernat in the chest and left the Bayern man wide open to finish at the left post.
That signalled the expected Bayern pressure with 35 minutes to play but with Robin Knoche, Naldo and the poised Rodriguez keeping things tight at the back, chances did not flow. And Wolfsburg was not afraid to continue to push forward, either, resisting the impulse to sit on the lead they had constructed.
Guardiola’s last attempt to change things came with 20 minutes left when he sent on Claudio Pizarro and Mario Goetze for Lewandowski and Mueller, neither of whom had been effective but De Bruyne immediately produced the 73rd-minute crusher.
The goal was again created by the quicksilver Arnold’s visionary pass. This time Dante was back to contest the De Bruyne run, but the Belgian midfielder ripped a drive to the near top left corner which no defender, nor Neuer could prevent.
The Wolves’ performance kept Bayern very much under wraps, their midfield working hard to pressure the visitors and effectively isolating Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski, neither of whom had much possession or opportunity. Robben did have one drive blocked away by Naldo and one chance well-saved by Diego Benaglio, but much of the time Bayern could not make the needed penetrating pass forward.