Former Stuttgart hero Mario Gomez condemned his former club to defeat on Sunday with a pair of well-taken goals for visiting Bayern, but the men from Munich were not firing on all cylinders and made heavy weather of it at times against a side reduced to ten men after less than half an hour. The FCB camp will not worry unduly about that, as the result sees the Reds move three points clear at the top of the Bundesliga standings.
The 60,441 capacity crowd at the magnificently renovated Mercedes-Benz-Arena saw Christian Gentner open for the home side after just six minutes, but Gomez levelled before the quarter-hour. Stuttgart were reduced to ten men on the half-hour when Cristian Molinaro was dismissed for his second crude foul of the afternoon, but the leaders were unable to exploit their numerical advantage before half-time.
That changed on 57 minutes when Gomez completed his brace after a spell of sustained FCB pressure, and Jupp Heynckes’ men were content enough to protect their lead until the final whistle, despite a slight loss of concentration at the end and a touch of niggle which produced seven yellow cards in addition to the sending off.
The result means FCB now have 34 points from 16 matches, and following Dortmund’s 1-1 draw at home to Lautern, and Schalke’s 2-1 win against Berlin on Friday, extend their lead in the Bundesliga to three points. The Bavarians are next in action at home to in-form FC Köln next Friday in the final league fixture prior to the winter break, before rounding off their 2011 programme away to Bochum in the DFB Cup the following Tuesday.
After making seven changes to his line-up for Wednesday’s meaningless reverse away to Manchester City, Heynckes topped that by adding eight new faces to Sunday’s team, effectively reverting to his first-choice starting eleven as a string of regulars shook off a bout of midweek flu.
Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Daniel van Buyten, Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribery and Gomez all returned to duty, with Kroos in defensive midfield and Müller in behind the lone striker on this occasion, while Arjen Robben finally made the start that had been slated for last week but was postponed due to the winger’s illness. That meant the only survivors of the line-up at Etihad stadium were Holger Badstuber, Rafinha and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
In his 100th match as a Bundesliga coach, Stuttgart boss Bruno Labbadia surprisingly left out the experience of Germany international Cacau and Russia hitman Pavel Pogrebnyak, handing youngster Julian Schieber a first start of term instead.
Once referee Manuel Gräfe whistled the match underway, Bayern should have taken an immediate lead, but although Robben latched onto a superb Gomez pass and rounded home keeper Sven Ulreich, the winger clearly felt the angle was too tight to slot into the empty net and squared for the FCB centre-forward, who totally missed his kick.
VfB made the most of their escape with the opening goal on six minutes, Molinaro scampering down the left and crossing for Martin Harnik to nod back into the middle, where Gentner volleyed home from ten yards. But Stuttgart’s joy was short-lived as Heynckes’ side produced the perfect response, Rafinha thrusting down the right on 13 minutes and centring to the near post, where former VfB hero Gomez skilfully deflected the ball past Ullreich witht eh outside of his boot.
The visitors poured forward now, Robben and Müller combining to dupe Ulreich and set up Gomez, but the striker’s header was a poor one. The home side dug in and a touch of niggle crept into the match midway through the half, Molinaro picking up a booking for clattering into Robben from behind. With the half-hour approaching, Robben was poised to trap a pass to his wing only to be felled again by Molinaro, leaving Gräfe with no choice but to dismiss the Italy international, for all the Stuttgart players’ vehement protests and the crowd’s noisy anger.
Labbadia’s men dropped deep now and parked the proverbial bus in front of their own penalty area. The men from Munich struggled for inspiration and VfB threatened on the break, Tomas Hajnal finding Arthur Boka for a burst into the box, where Badstuber dealt with the danger. At the other end, Serdar Tasci did the same as Ribery dribbled into the danger zone, Lahm’s cross for Gomez floated too near Ulreich, and Harnik just hindered van Buyten’s effort to meet Robben’s centre.
The sides turned round with the scores level, but Kroos so nearly remedied that on 50 minutes with a cracking drive after a glorious flowing move, drawing a fine parry from Ulreich. The keeper was beaten soon afterwards, however, as Gomez completed his brace on 57 minutes, slotting home with the minimum of fuss after Kroos released Lahm for a perfectly-timed square ball towards the penalty spot.
The visitors were now firmly in the driving seat and controlled the match with some ease. Gomez wanted too much time with only Ullreich between himself and a hat-trick and then directed Rafinha’s near-post cross wide of the upright, before Labbadia went for broke and sent on Pogrebnyak and Cacau with 20 minutes to go.
The gamble changed little in the flow of the game as the visitors clung onto possession and occasionally advanced menacingly on Ulreich’s goal. Robben fired over the bar, but Munich almost relaxed too much as Pogrebnyak came close from a rare VfB corner. Heynckes reacted and replaced Müller and Ribery with Luiz Gustavo and David Alaba for the last ten minutes, but a mix-up between Van Buyten and Neuer almost let in Cacau, causing the furious FCB boss to leap to his feet and issue an angry demand for full concentration.
Jerome Boateng took over from Robben before the end, and the visitors tightened up sufficiently to steer the game to its conclusion and bank what could end up being three exceptionally valuable away points.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley
|VfB Stuttgart - Bayern Munich 1-2 (H-T: 1-1)|
|VfB Stuttgart||Ulreich - Boka, Tasci, Maza, Molinaro - Kvist, Gentner (Cacau 70) - Harnik, Hajnal (Niedermeier 87), Gebhardt - Schieber (Pogrebnyak 70)|
|Bayern Munich||Neuer - Rafinha, Van Buyten, Badstuber, Lahm - Tymoshchuk, Kroos - Robben (Boateng 85), Müller (Luiz Gustavo 79), Ribéry (Alaba 79) - Gomez|
|Substitutes:||Butt, Boateng, Contento, Pranjic, Olic|
|Referee:||Manuel Gräfe (Berlin)|
|Goals:||1-0 Gentner (6), 1-1 Gomez (13), 1-2 Gomez (57)|
|Yellow Cards:||Gentner, Boka, Niedermeier / Müller, Badstuber, Rafinha, Gomez|
|Yellow/Red Cards:||Molinaro (29, second bookable offence)|