Bayern secure Liga lead with Wolfsburg win
Bayern Munich went 18 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga on Friday with a 2-0 victory at VfL Wolfsburg as they move ever closer to the German title.
With Tuesday's trip to Arsenal looming in the Champions League last-16, first-leg tie, Bayern did enough to see off 12th-placed Wolfsburg without picking up injuries.
It was Munich's 18th win from 22 matches and with second-placed Borussia Dortmund hosting Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, Bayern took the chance to further extend their massive lead.
"We played against a team who certainly produced their best game of the season. They gave their all," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes. "Wolfsburg were aggressive, ran hard and disturbed our game early on. These are the games we must win, but we showed we have a great team."
Against his former club, Mario Mandžukic again proved why Germany's Mario Gomez must be content with a place on Bayern's bench.
The Croat gave Munich a first-half lead to claim his sixth goal in four Bundesliga games, taking his tally in all matches to 17 for the season. Gomez and Arjen Robben, who has also been relegated to the bench recently, came on for the last 10 minutes and the Dutch star hit his first league goal of the season to double Bayern's lead in stoppage time.
The win was Munich's 10th away victory in 11 league matches this season and their fifth consecutive clean sheet away from home in the Bundesliga.
Heynckes, who will step down as coach at season's end to be replaced by Pep Guardiola, looks set to end Bayern's three-year wait for silverware in May with at least the Bundesliga shield.
Having conceded just seven goals in 22 games all season, Bayern have leaked just one of those away from home -- in the 1-1 draw at Nuremberg last November.
If they keep winning, Bayern could be crowned champions as early as mid-April - they are on course to break their own record of 30 matches, set in the 1972/73 season, for the earliest confirmed league title victory.
Yet despite their current rich-vein of form, this was a below-key performance from Bayern, who were lacking Spain's Javi Martínez in the defensive midfield.
His replacement, Brazil's Luiz Gustavo did not provide the same fluid service alongside Germany star Bastian Schweinsteiger while France wing Franck Ribéry had a quiet night on the left flank.
"We got the result against a very aggressive team," said Schweinsteiger.
"We had some earlier opportunities, but we didn't played well. It was a tough away game, there were many tough one-on-ones, so I am happy with the performance."
The opener came on 36 minutes as Schweinsteiger won the battle for the ball from a Toni Kroos' free-kick and his header was superbly drilled home by Mandžukic's bicycle kick for his 15th goal to make him the league's top scorer.
Robben seized his chance to remind Heynckes of what he can do as he collected Thomas Müller's decent pass and buried his shot past Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio just before the final whistle.
With reports in the German media again insisting Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski is set to join Bayern, Heynckes brushed off the reports. "Our players are used to hearing again and again about speculation over new players," said the Munich boss.