Thomas Tuchel clenched both hands into fists, his professionals were pumped up and celebrated by the fans who had traveled with them. FC Bayern Munich dragged itself into the winter break with the last of its strength. The German champions won 2-1 (2-1) at VfL Wolfsburg even without eight sick or injured professionals and thus remain close to leaders Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
“It was very clear that we had to push through today,” said Bayern sporting director Christoph Freund on the pay-TV channel Sky. “Those were very important three points and that feels really good.”
Thanks to goals from Jamal Musiala (33rd minute) and Harry Kane (43rd), Bayern successfully concluded one of the most turbulent years in their club's history. However, Maximilian Arnold's 1:2 (45th 1) spoiled their hope of a calm and relaxed second half. Because the Wolfsburg team pushed the visibly exhausted record champions further and further back.
When the Munich team last competed in the Volkswagen Arena in February, the coach, the CEO and the sports director each had different names. That alone illustrates what was going on with the German series champions in 2023.
Squad extremely thin
However, the fact that the absence of several prominent names such as Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka (both ill), Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman (both injured) meant that coach Thomas Tuchel couldn't even get an 18-man matchday squad for the last appearance of the year shows also: Bayern urgently need to correct the summer's shortcomings in January and strengthen their squad. With such a thin line-up, the championship and Champions League are difficult to win.
The strain on this core squad was clearly visible in front of 28,917 spectators. Even in the early stages, Bayern made numerous passing errors and lack of concentration, which invited the vicious Wolfsburg team to quickly counterattack. The Swede Mattias Svanberg missed an early VfL lead in the 4th minute.
Musiala in focus
Bayern were only really dominant between the 15th and 45th minutes. The protagonists: national player Musiala, who played his 100th Bundesliga game at the age of 20 and scored with a header to make it 1-0. Goal scorer Kane, who scored his 21st goal of the season with a remarkable long-range shot and is now only one goal short of the first-round record set by former Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski (22). And Bayern legend Thomas Müller, who prepared both goals.
The 34-year-old had only extended his contract the day before and only briefly thought about leaving the club he loved once in recent years: that was when current Wolfsburg head coach Niko Kovac coached the Munich team from 2019 to 2020.
No matter how limited VfL is in terms of play under Kovac, his teams are always fit and strong. And that affected Bayern after the break. Wolfsburg became bolder, Bayern weaker. In the 58th minute, national goalkeeper Manuel Neuer cleared with a foot save after a solo by the Brazilian Rogerio. However, the hosts were too harmless in the final third to punish Munich's drop in performance. Bayern's final effort saved their lead at the finish.