Stuttgart vs. Bayern Munich: 6 Things We Learned
Bayern Munich marched on in their Bundesliga dominance tonight with a testing 2-1 win over VfB Stuttgart in a victory that now sees the Bavarian side go 13 points clear of Bayer Leverkusen in second place.
Things didn't go according to plan for Pep Guardiola's side, when Vedad Ibisevic knocked home for the hosts 29 minutes in to the game, following a rare period of domination for Bayern's opponents this season.
In fact, even the heartiest of Bayern fans would be willing to concede a first half that was undoubtedly the Bavarian side's worst of the entire season. Stuttgart held on to the lead until half-time, with Bayern struggling to offer solutions.
Then came the second half, and with it the introduction of Mario Mandzukic and Claudio Pizarro to the toothless attack. Fifteen minutes after the quick double switch from the coach and Pizarro had already knocked home for Bayern's equaliser. Stuttgart were now on the run.
Yet it took a moment of magic from none other than Thiago Alcantara to eventually win the game for Guardiola's side with an outstanding bicycle kick in the last minute of the game. Not only was it an exquisite finish, but also a sign of intent. Bayern wouldn't be threatened by mere pretenders to their title.
Here's what we learned from Bayern's victory tonight.
Dante's Sloppy Form Continues
Bayern may have grabbed the all-important three points against Stuttgart tonight, but what many Bayern fans will take from this game was another sub-standard performance from Bayern's back-line.
In particular, it was Dante's wavering form that again came to light whenever the quick, skillful attack of Stuttgart marched down on Manuel Neuer's goal—not too dissimilar from what was on show against Gladbach just last Friday. If Bayern do look a little rusty after the turn of the year, it is almost entirely down to Dante and his back-line's performances.
Stuttgart Show Their Worth
If the gods of football were a fair old bunch, tonight's hosts should have really finished at full-time with a solid point intact.
Although Stuttgart never looked as though they had the guile to finish Bayern off and dominate all three points, they certainly put the Bavarians to the sword in the first half. They could have scored two or three as the likes of Ibisevic and Martin Harnick continued to push forward.
Yet with only five wins all season, two of which at home, Thomas Schneider's side will take plenty of positives from the night they should have drawn even with the champions.
Thiago Winning Midfield Battle
Thiago's incredible last-minute goal was a work of art that will undoubtedly go down in the history books as one of this season's most important goals.
Yet what makes it so special to this young player is the fact that he continues to thrive when those around him begin to stumble. By the time he had won the game for Bayern, Toni Kroos had already begrudgingly stormed off the pitch where he joined a Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez who will struggle to regain their dominance when fitness returns.
Right now it is the young Spaniard who rules Bayern's midfield alongside club captain Philipp Lahm—a circumstance that Guardiola may not be too worried about.
Kroos Unhappy with Early Substitution
In the hunt for an equalising goal, Guardiola chose to make an early substitution in the form of striker Pizarro for Kroos in midfield.
Such a move sounds like a logical decision from any coach—let alone the famous tactician—yet Kroos didn't take the decision well at all, throwing his gloves to the floor and avoiding any advances from comforting team-mates.
A huff such as this would go unnoticed from any other player in the modern game, but from Kroos' suggests a telling story. The midfielder was frustrated amongst a flurry of rumours.
Unlikely Striker Steps Up for Bayern
Bayern may have just signed a world class striker in the form of Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski and have another doing the media cycle in Mandzukic, yet it was back up forward Pizarro who came on against Stuttgart to equalise for his side.
Pizarro, who already had 158 Bundesliga goals to his name before Wednesday's game, had initially been criticised for returning to Bayern for a simple payslip, yet he has scored eight goals in his last 25 appearances for the club—a valuable plan B to his club.
Bayern's Records Continue to Stack Up
It may not have gone exactly to plan, yet Bayern's domination of German football marched on with two new records to add to their long list.
As well as a new record set for 27 consecutive unbeaten away games in the Bundesliga, Guardiola's side also managed to reach 28 consecutive away games in which they scored at least one goal—total control over the past season and a half from the Bavarian club through a series of numbers.