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Huth and Wolfsburg put Bayern in their place

October 23, 2022

A brilliant volley from Germany and Wolfsburg's Svenja Huth settled the contest between Germany's top two sides. Bayern Munich are now five points behind their title rivals.

Svenja Huth celebrates her goal with Wolfsburg teammates
Svenja Huth led her team from the front and remains a key figure for club and countryImage: Darius Simka/regios24/IMAGO

It shouldn't have been this nervy for Wolfsburg. As the whistle blew on a compelling contest, the roar from the vast majority of the 21,287 in the stands of the Volkswagen Arena was one of relief. They'd spent the last 10 minutes of a match they dominated seeing Bayern hit the post, their keeper Merle Frohms make a crucial stop and captain Svenja Huth lose her cool with the referee.

But they held on to claim a 2-1 win against their only serious domestic title rivals and move five points clear of Bayern at the summit after just five games. Bayern also dropped points in the season opener at Eintracht Frankfurt, the only Bundesliga game to top this one in terms of attendance. 

"Perhaps in the second half we should have finished off one or two of our chances better, and ended up leading 3-1," accepted Huth in an interview with broadcaster NDR after the game. "But I'm so proud of the team for how they accepted the challenge today."

Wolfsburg keep Bayern at arm's length

For much of Sunday's match, the challenge posed by the Bavarians was minimal. Alexandra Popp had already seen a goal disallowed and Wolfsburg had started to boss the midfield when they took the lead in freakish fashion. Ewa Pajor took an uncharacteristically heavy touch in the box, allowing Sarah Zadrazil to clear. But the Austrian midfielder's clearance ballooned off Pajor's shin and spun over the keeper and in. It was a stroke of fortune, but no more than the Wolves deserved.

Huth's 58th-minute volley, struck in off the post with both feet in the air after adjusting for a poorly-struck clearance, was a more fitting demonstration of the home side's quality. She had been as industrious and smart as ever, Popp's movement troubled Bayern all game while Lena Oberdorf and Lena Lattwein won the crucial midfield battle against Georgia Stanway and Lina Magull.

"We are early in the process and to come here and put in that performance gives us confidence," said new Bayern coach Alexander Straus, who felt his side were unlucky to lose. "We will get much better than we were today."

While Klara Bühl's 78th-minute strike made for a frenetic finish and gave a taste of what Bayern can do, it was all too little, too late.

"We can be absolutely satisfied with the final minutes. We put everything in and showed a good mentality," said the Germany international afterwards. Though the season is only five games old, recent history suggests that valiant losses and late surges just don't cut it in the Bundesliga.

Bundesliga duopoly

These two clubs have been the top two in the German top flight every season since 2013-14 and they are overwhelmingly likely to be again.

Bayern and Wolfsburg's goal differences of +60 and +66 respectively in a 22-game season in 2021-22, tell a tale of two sides who are miles above most of their competitors. Indeed, over the last five seasons, an average of 60 points, from the 66 available, has been required to be champions. Bayern can now only reach a maximum of 61. The margin for error is non-existent.

Bayern Munich players Sarah Zadrazil and Lea Schüller talk tactics on the pitch
Bayern Munich's slow start leaves them with plenty to do in the BundesligaImage: Michael Matthey/dpa/picture alliance

Hope for the Bavarians comes in the improvement of Frankfurt and Hoffenheim, who are both capable of causing an upset against the big two. But it's rare. And this Wolfsburg squad, who have already beaten Hoffenheim away, look formidable.

"We want to win everything with Wolfsburg this season and we have the squad quality to do so," said Popp earlier in the season. Though the Champions League has just begun, Wolfsburg look capable of reaching the latter stages and giving themselves a chance of fulfilling Popp's aims.

Closer to home, Sunday's win is a huge step towards a fifth domestic title in six seasons. But they're not there yet, and Straus will have the rematch in March circled in his diary as a milestone of his side's progress, and potentially of his side's only remaining hope. That the results in this fixture and its return dictate so much about where the title lands is a problem for the league and not its top two clubs.

Edited by Jonathan Harding