Robert Lewandowski scored twice and set up the other as 10-man Bayern Munich eased the pressure on Niko Kovac with a much-needed 3-1 win at Wolfsburg on Saturday.
Arjen Robben’s second-half dismissal for two needless bookings – the first a dive on the edge of the area – gave Kovac some unnecessary concern, but James Rodriguez popped up in the 72nd minute to curtail a four-game competitive winless run.
Lewandowski had earlier struck either side of half-time to establish a two-goal buffer that was reduced through Wout Weghorst soon after Robben’s departure.
But, a day after Bayern president Uli Hoeness labelled press treatment of the club a “joke”, the headlines are kinder for Kovac thanks to Colombia star James, a player with whom he has reportedly shared a tense relationship.
Scoreless in five matches for club and country, Lewandowski’s struggles initially continued when his mishit follow-up to a Robben effort allowed Koen Casteels to scramble the ball off the line.
Salvation soon came for the Poland international as, in the 30th minute, he read Thiago Alcantara’s dummy of a Mats Hummels pass and finished through the goalkeeper’s legs.
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) October 20, 2018
Casteels denied James before the break only for Wolfsburg to gift away the second within three minutes of the restart, defender William’s backward header presenting Lewandowski with a simple one-on-one finish.
An unlikely lifeline for the hosts came through Robben’s second booking for a trip on Elvis Rexhbecaj and they took advantage six minutes later as Yannick Gerhardt squared for Weghorst reduce the deficit.
However, the hope proved to be fleeting, James profiting from a fine Lewandowski pass to get the champions back on track in the Bundesliga.
What it means: Performance matches result
Kovac claimed in his pre-match press conference that Bundesliga champions Bayern were performing well despite recent results and his comments were justified at Volkswagen Arena, a dominant first half allied to a resilient last half hour that demonstrated a team in good working order.
Thiago sets the tempo
Partnered with Javi Martinez in midfield, Spain international Thiago injected Bayern with a sense of calm in possession, while his clever decision to leave Hummels’ pass in the first half set Lewandowski free for the essential opener.
Robben’s avoidable red
Bayern were coasting until the experienced Robben drew a second booking that offered Wolfsburg a way back into the contest their play had never previously looked like meriting.
2011 – Arjen Robben has received his first red card since April 2011 (v 1. FC Nürnberg). Tschüss. pic.twitter.com/YtuSnkBL2h
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) October 20, 2018
Bayern visit AEK Athens in the Champions League on Tuesday before a weekend trip Mainz, while Wolfsburg head to lowly Fortuna Dusseldorf next Saturday.
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