Back on track? Three takeaways from Bayern’s much-needed win in Wolfsburg
Against VfL Wolfsburg, the main task was to settle the rocking Bavarian boat. It was far from perfect, but a good case of a job well done.
If any player was going to get Bayern back on track at the Volkswagen Arena, it was Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker has a particular affinity for the Lower Saxon outfit, though it is fair to say that feeling is far from mutual.
Having started the season with a hot goal-scoring streak, things had dried up a little for Lewandowski. Up against the 2009 Bundesliga champions, everything seemed to be right back where they should be.
After a rather frustrating opening half hour for Die Roten, Lewy opened the scoring. The finish was typically ice-cool. Mats Hummels’ incisive ball into the box was well left by Serge Gnabry, and Lewy drilled the ball almost straight through the prostrate Koen Casteels.
The second goal four minutes into the second half was the perfect predator’s finish. When VfL defender William made a complete mess of dealing with Niklas Süle’s slightly misdirected long ball, the Bayern number nine out-wolfed the Wolves. He needed no second invitation, rounding Casteels before slotting the ball into an empty net.
In what was the perfect all-round game, Lewandowski’s neat pass for James set up Bayern’s match-sealing third goal, and he was denied a hat-trick late on by the busy Casteels.
Yes, it is fair to say that Lewy loves Wolfsburg.
If Robert Lewandowski had a great day, the same could not be said of Arjen Robben. The Dutchman was badly off the boil, and would eventually pay the price for the sort of silly shenanigans we all thought he had given up on long ago.
With a lot of the play going through the centre of the pitch, we would get to see little if anything of Robben’s famous charges and cuts inside. He did warm Casteels’ gloves with one decent effort, but that was about it.
It was clear that the bald Dutch master’s frustration was starting to bubble, and his curious hop and dive a minute before half time was as ridiculous as it was theatrical. It did not help that it was right in front of referee Guido Winkmann.
Coach Niko Kovač might have been best advised to hook the simmering Dutchman off at half-time, and three minutes before he hour mark the chickens came home to roost. Robben’s toe-to-heel challenge on Elvis Rexhbecaj was more of a lame afterthought than anything else, but it was clear what the outcome was going to be.
It was arguably one of the softest dismissals you are likely to see, but Robben took the decision with typically philosophical humour. He was laughing all the way to the tunnel, but will probably have the smile wiped off his face at the next training session before he sits out the next match in the stands.
Yes, this all sounds a little contradictory. But let me explain. After four matches without a win, Bayern have finally stopped the rot. After a dismal show on home turf again Borussia Mönchengladbach a fortnight ago, this was a far better showing.
This is all good.
The problem is that there are plenty of things that still need fixing. Despite scoring three times, plenty of other opportunities went begging. Bayern may have won the game and claimed the points, but a fully-functioning Bayern would have finished the contest long before half-time.
Two of the three goals came as a result of obvious defensive errors, and there will be – are are – far better teams out there than Wolfsburg. These teams will not be as slack, and Bayern will have to step up and start converting their chances. It is an issue that will need constant examination, even if the team starts winning again.
The Wolfsburg goal was also a cause for concern. This Bayern team continue to be vulnerable against the fast counterattack, and this was the case again today. The moment Wolfsburg actually tried something bold, the Bavarian defence looked stretched. Players were caught out of position, and the result was a soft-looking goal.
Outstanding issues aside, we can all be happy with today’s result. Next up, a trip to Athens.