The Englische Woche has happened for the Bundesliga. After a short turnaround, the Bundesliga was in full action again on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. After the short break and some squad rotation, Bayern was up to some of their old tricks before Lewandowski blew up the entire world.
The squad rotation was on again for Bayern, bringing in some of the players who had the luxury of resting for the Matchday 5 tilt with Darmstadt. Rafinha was sent to the bench in favor of team captain Philipp Lahm, who helped anchor the four-man backline. Again, Bayern opened in a different formation. After running a 4-1-4-1 against Darmstadt, Guardiola opted for a 4-3-3 approach to begin the match against Wolfsburg. Joshua Kimmich was also dropped in favor of Xabi Alonso who occupied the most central midfield role in his place. Vidal moved from a forward midfield positioning into a wide midfield positioning. Rode and Coman also returned to the bench, replaced by regulars Thiago Alcantara and Thomas Muller. Still, Robert Lewandowski was on the bench, not in the starting lineup, for the Wolfsburg match.
Wolfsburg is one of a select number of teams capable of running the field with Bayern. Really, only about two or three teams outside of the Reds from Munich have a legitimate chance of pushing for the top two or three positions in the league. This match was also the first chance for Bayern to take the field in Bundesliga play this season against a club that approaches their level of skill and confidence.
Bayern dominated the opening 20 minutes of the match, but shortly after that opening monopoly Wolfsburg capitalized on their best chance of the match when Daniel Caligiuri fired a scorching shot near post over the outstretched hands of Manuel Neuer. And this is what I expected from Bayern. The two teams had tied in their Super Cup meeting at the beginning of August and Wolfsburg absolutely routed Bayern, 4-1, in their last league meeting in January. Interestingly, these two teams have had some major blowout victories in the past few years. The way these two teams take it to each other, it looks more like the score in a tennis match than of a meeting between two of the best sides in German football. Bayern has beaten Wolfsburg 6-1, 6-1 and 5-1 in the last three years, while Wolfsburg has beaten Bayern 4-1 in that time span.
The match was much more even after Wolfsburg swung the tide and stunned the home side. But, as I said earlier, this is the Bayern I expected. Generally, Munich has been unimpressive when player other top teams, domestically and abroad. Even in winning the league, they tend to come away only with a draw or loss when playing against the best German sides and they have come crashing out of the Champions League in consecutive season when faced with equal or better opponents.
Wolfsburg not only stabilized after Bayern's early push, but after taking the lead they almost doubled that advantage when a great thing happened. Over the past two season, Manuel Neuer has gone from a phenomenally promising talent with a known penchant for being wreckless, to simply being considered the best goalkeeper in the world due not only to his ability to protect his net but to also move foward, acting as a sweeper. He even takes penalties from time to time. On this day, the old Neuer showed himself again.
At my old blog, I used to call this weekly installment, "Neuer Being Neuer" or "Neuer Doing Neuer Things." So, here is the latest entry in that category.
Yes, Neuer foolishly races out to take the ball off of the feet of his own recovering defender, David Alaba, and then charges wildly forward while out of control, trying to regain possession. He narrowly misses picking up a yellow card, or worse, for a wild tackle, which he only avoided because the Wolfsburg player elected to dodge him in attempt to get a shot at an open goal.
The shot came, taken by Joshua Guilavogui, and it curled slowly toward the left of the goal as it traveled all the way down the pitch. Ultimately, his shot missed the mark. Later replay would show just how close he was, his shot at the empty net actually hit the outside of the post, just a few inches from scoring a second and decisive goal that would have likely changed the outcome of the match altogether.
I guess you could that this is yet another healthy helping of Bayern-Dusel. Whatever else it may have been, it was exciting soccer.
At halftime, Guardiola made a bold move and substitued not one, but two players. Bayern brought on striker Robert Lewandowski, still considered questionable due to an ankle injury he picked up against Olympiacos in the Champions League a week earlier, and Javi Martinez. Martinez's appearance was his second consecutive second half substitution after a lengthy time off due to injury. His presence was felt during the second half and his skill brings some much needed depth to a Bayern side that is currently facing a lot of injuries.
It was Lewandowski, however, who made his presence felt first and had a more lasting impact on the result of the match. After just six minutes of playing time, Lewa scored the first in a barrage of goals that happened so quickly it scarcely seemed to be happening.
First, there was this.
Then, there were two.
Jumpman Jumpman Jumpman
Lewandowski must be a Slayer fan, because he was in Show No Mercy mode.
And just to make sure it was absolutely ridiculous, he finished off his scorching streak with a fifth.
What a time to be alive.
When the smoke cleared, Lewa had scored five goals in the span of just nine minutes. He set Bundesliga records for being the first substitute to score five goals in a match, fastest hat trick in Bundesliga history by scoring three goals in three minutes and twenty-two seconds, fastest four goals in Bundesliga history by scoring four goals in five minutes and forty-two seconds, and also fastest five goals by doing so in eight minutes and fifty-nine seconds. He was also the first person to score five goals in a single Bundesliga match in 24 years.
That was the end of the match for intents and purposes. There was no coming back. Luiz Gustavo, the former Bayern player now with Wolfsburg, was subbed off in the middle of the Lewandowski rampage and looked completely defeated. Former Bayern defender, Dante, now playing for Wolfsburg looked beaten in spite of his efforts to rally the troops.
And the final curious note worth mentioning is the strange tale of Dante. The Brazilian National Team member has played against his former Bayern teammates in two competitions in the past year and a half. The first occasion was playing against the German National Team in the World Cup semi-final. Brazil, featuring Dante, was completely humiliated in their home country, on the game's biggest stage. Germany absolutely destroyed Brazil, 7-1, and a majority of their scoring came very quickly, early in the match. Interestingly, Luiz Gustavo, also formerly of Bayern is a member of the Brazilian team. And, now, just a few weeks after leaving Bayern for Wolfsburg, Dante is again torched by his Bayern brethren to the tune of 5-1. That leaves Dante's teams outscored 12-2 in just two soccer matches played against his former teammates. And the same goes for Luiz Gustavo.
Some, myself included, never really bought into Dante after the World Cup. He never seemed to fully regain his confidence and his level of play suffered. While not an old man, he is now on the wrong side of 30 as well, which surely figures into his rapid decline in big games. Hopefully, he can right the ship and end his career on a high note, with Wolfsburg or elsewhere.
Lewandowski is the man of the hour, having set all kinds of records by scoring an avalanche of goals against one of the biggest challengers to Bayerns domestic supremacy. His feat garnered attention from Complex Media, ESPN Sportscenter, and Perez Hilton (really?) among others. So, while this is bad news for the rest of the Bundesliga on the pitch, the publicity that the league will receive should do nothing but improve the standing of the league around the world.
I wonder how they'll manage to top this...
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)