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Hard-working FCB edge out tenacious Wolves

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Hard-working FCB edge out tenacious Wolves

Postby FCBayernNews » Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:40 pm

Bayern warmed up for Tuesday's trip to Arsenal in the best possible fashion by extending their unbeaten run to 18 matches with a tight but deserved win over obstinate Wolfsburg on Friday evening. Records are tumbling as the Reds rumble inexorably towards their target of the Bundesliga title, with the runaway league leaders still to let in a goal in 2013.

The 30,000 full house at the VW Arena saw Jupp Heynckes' men slowly but surely wear down the resolute Wolves and take a 36th-minute lead thanks to a spectacular overhead-kick opener from Mario Mandzukic, the big Croat declining to celebrate out of respect for his former club.

A few minutes into the second half, the visitors passed another extraordinary milestone by going more than four hours in the league without their opponents mustering a single shot on target. Manuel Neuer eventually did make a save from Diego's 77th-minute set piece, but the men in red withstood the home side's late rally and sub Arjen Robben opened his account for the season with a stoppage-time second.

An 18th league win from 22 matches sees FCB continue to smash Bundesliga records, as the Reds already have 57 points, a goal difference of +50, and an 18-point overnight lead over second-placed Dortmund, who face Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday evening. The Bavarians now turn their attention to the Champions League and Tuesday's eagerly-awaited visit to London giants Arsenal, before returning to domestic action at home to Werder Bremen next Saturday afternoon.

Heynckes made four changes to the line-up from the 4-0 win over Schalke last weekend, restoring Thomas Müller, Daniel van Buyten and ex-Wolves striker Mandzukic in place of Arjen Robben, Jerome Boateng and Mario Gomez, with Luiz Gustavo filling in for the injured Javi Martinez.

That meant FCB started with Neuer in goal, David Alaba, Dante, Van Buyten and captain Philipp Lahm in the back four, Gustavo paired with Bastian Schweinsteiger in the twin holding roles, Müller and Franck Ribery in the wide positions, and Toni Kroos operating in the space behind Mandzukic.

Wolves boss Dieter Hecking, the only coach to prevent Munich winning an away league fixture so far this season when he guided Nürnberg to a 1-1 draw against Heynckes' side last autumn, fielded ex-FCB hero Ivica Olic in his starting line-up, with former Germany hitman Patrick Helmes taking a seat on the bench for the first time since a six-month lay-off with cartilage damage.

Once referee Felix Zwayer whistled play underway on a misty Friday evening in Lower Saxony, Müller squandered a glorious early chance when he steered a free header wide and Mandzukic blazed into the crowd, while at the other end Bas Dost narrowly failed to connect with a Marcel Schäfer centre and Portuguese schemer Vieirinha fired high and wide of Neuer's goal.

The pattern of the contest had become clear by the midpoint of the first half, with the visitors seeing most of the ball but the home side defending resolutely and looking to strike on the break. Munich upped the tempo on the half-hour, and although desperate defending stopped Kroos and Müller in their tracks, Mandzukic applied an acrobatic finish to open the scoring on 36 minutes after Schweinsteiger headed a Kroos free-kick back into the danger zone.

The men in red were happy enough to protect the lead through to the interval, but the Wolves' frustration began to show as Vieirinha and Dost both picked up yellow cards for niggly fouls. FCB kept up the pressure after the restart, but although Kroos released Lahm on the right with an inch-perfect chip, a combination of Wolves keeper Diego Benaglio and Brazilian stopper Naldo on the line denied Müller.

FCB retained the upper hand but Wolfsburg were not going down without a fight, Vieirinha twice shooting wide and Czech midfielder Jan Polak also trying his luck from long range. The visitors still threatened whenever they came forward, Alexander Madlung producing a last-ditch tackle to stop Müller and Gustavo scooping a shot into the stands.

The visitors now opted to keep it tight and unspectacular for a spell, confident in their ability to smother the home side's increasingly frantic attacking efforts. Neuer finally made a save, and a good one too, to beat out Diego's tricky 77th-minute free-kick, prompting Heynckes to replace Ribery and Kroos with Robben and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, and goalscorer Mandzukic with Mario Gomez.

Heynckes' side held off the home team's late rally with reasonable ease, before Robben wrapped up the victory by crashing a half-volley past Benaglio from close range from Müller's looped cross.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley
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