Bayern Munich has moved three points clear at the top of the Bundesliga after a Mario Gomez double gave the Bavarian giant a 2-1 win at 10-man Stuttgart on Sunday.
Seven minutes into the game, the hosts punished the wasteful visitors as Christian Gentner made it 1-0. Gomez atoned for an earlier miss on 13 minutes, however, as he restored parity with his first Bundesliga goal since Nov. 6. Gomez came up with the goods again shortly before the hour mark, producing another clinical finish to seal the win and give the league leader a cushion at the top.
Bayern started the match in excellent form and should have taken the lead on five minutes as Gomez brilliantly played Robben in on goal, but the Dutchman's return pass somehow found its way between the striker's legs, and the chance went begging.
The Swabians responded immediately, with Molinaro making inroads down the left flank, before sending a cross in towards Martin Harnik, whose knock down to Gentner was slid home to put the home side ahead.
Bayern quickly found its way back into the game, and Gomez had a glancing header miss narrowly wide before redirecting Rafinha's deflected cross into the net at full stretch in the 13th minute. The scorer came close once more before setting up Thomas Muller, who had a deflected strike saved by Sven Ulreich.
The game changed entirely on the half-hour mark as Cristian Molinaro was sent off for a second poor challenge on Arjen Robben, after which VfB dug deep in defense. However, the visiting side did not threaten as much as it would have liked given the superior numbers. At the other end, Timo Gebhart's volley flew just over the bar as the first half was brought to a close.
Bayern began the second period determined to make the most of its numerical advantage, and Toni Kroos forced Ulreich into a smart diving save with a rifled shot from 20 yards out in the 50th minute after a glorious passing sequence. Kroos was at it again seven minutes later, releasing Lahm towards the left byline, and the skipper’s cutback towards Gomez was stabbed home to give Bayern the lead.
With a goal and a man advantage, Jupp Heynckes men began to tighten the noose, and penned Stuttgart back in its own half for long spells. Bruno Labbadia threw caution to the wind, and brought on Pavel Pogrebnyak and Cacau for the home stretch in an attempt to turn the tide in his side’s favor.
Both substitutes came close to making a decisive impact within minutes of their introduction. Pogrebnyak came within inches of steering home a loose ball in the box. A suicidal back-header by Daniel Van Buyten in the 80th minute left Cacau one-on-one with Neuer, but the Brazilian’s finish was put about a foot too high.
Stuutgart threw everything at Bayern in the time that remained, but the final ball was lacking and the visiting side managed to see off the late charge. Bayern now holds a three point lead over Dortmund and Schalke with 34 points, while Stuttgart remains in seventh place with 22 points.