Thomas Muller opened the door and Bayern Munich set a Bundesliga record of nine consecutive victories to open the season with a labored 1-0 success at struggling Werder Bremen Saturday afternoon.
Although they were on top much of the match, this was not the usually fluid Bayern attack as they ran into a defensive Bremen wall. Because the hosts opted for an almost completely defensive approach to the match it was never safe for the leaders, but Bayern survived to claim the record when Anthony Ujah squandered a pair of late chances that could have changed the script.
Third-place Schalke scored in stoppage time to win their showdown against ten-man Hertha Berlin 2-1, while VfL Wolfsburg prepped for a return to Champions League action with a Max Kruse hat trick producing a 4-2 win against Hoffenheim. Bayer Leverkusen could only draw 0-0 at HSV and Darmstadt won 2-0 at Augsburg to complete the Saturday afternoon program.
Bayern came into the match having equalled their own record of eight straight wins at the start of a campaign, accomplished in Jupp Heynckes' final season when the Munich club captured the league, German Cup and European Champions League title before the reins were turned over to Pep Guardiola.
The narrow victory not only allowed Bayern to expand its Bundesliga lead to seven points over second place Borussia Dortmund, but was also the perfect filip ahead of Tuesday's Champions League match in London against Arsenal.
For Werder Bremen the streak they continued is heading in the wrong direction, manager Viktor Skripnik no doubt under pressure after a club record fifth consecutive defeat. Skripnik's team came out tucked so deeply into its own half that Bayern was invited to attack and there were few opportunities for the home side to attempt to get forward.
It took just 23 minutes for Muller to open the account when he timed his run between defenders to receive a cutting pass on the left from Thiago Alcantara. MÃ¼ller was clearly onside when he tucked the ball home despite the Bremen defenders appealing for a flag that was never going to come.
That might have signalled a Bayern canter to to victory, but Werder Bremen had five men stretched across the final line of defense with four more in front of them, so Bayern found itself with plenty of the ball but few real opportunities after the goal.
Werder Bremen was playing so deep in its own half that constructing a counter attack required good fortune which wasn't available until the 68th minute when a long ball beat Rafinha in the air, and fell to Ujah, alone facing Neuer. Ujah failed to put the ball to either side of the keeper so Neuer smothered the shot from point-blank range.
The opportunity was wildly against the run of play but Bremen will feel they should have been level at that point despite conceding so much possession. Minutes later Ujah skewed another chance across the face of goal when he should have least forced Neuer to save.
Bremen did show greater attacking endeavor in the final 15 minutes without being able to get level. They had left it far too late to take the risks necessary.
Schalke broke on top in their battle with Hertha Berlin after Vedad Ibisevic was shown a direct red card in the 18th minute when his scything tackle from behind brought down Max Meyer. That meant the Berlin side faced 72 minutes with 10-men and it required only nine minutes for the Gelsenkirchen hosts to get on top, Benedikt Howedes coming clean at the near right post to head home a corner from Johannes Geis.
Ten-man Hertha got level with 16 minutes left when Mitchell Weiser floated a fine cross from wide on the right and Salomon Kalou got on the end with a diving header, but Schalke persisted. Leroy Sane made a great run to the byeline in stoppage time and laid the ball back for Max Meyer to register the 92nd minute winner.
Wolfsburg, which faces PSV Eindhoven Wednesday in the Champions League, needed just 43 seconds to get ahead of Hoffenheim and Julian Draxler's unselfish pass sent Kruse in to hit an open nets after a Hoffenheim defender inadvertently headed a long ball into the path of Draxler on the left. The defense was caught completely at sea as Kruse finished.
It was 2-0 just six minutes later, Bas Dost registering on an open header with Draxler again the set-up man, but the visitors got one back before the interval when Jeremy Toljan had acres of room to make a 40-meter run down the right before hitting the near right corner with his 30th minute shot.
Ten minutes into the second half Hoffenheim were level when Wolfsburg retreated too quickly from a throw-in on the right, Kevin Volland had room to slide a pass through to Jonathan Schmidt, who saw his first shot saved by Diego Benaglio before collecting the rebound and scoring.
Kruse then took over, putting Wolfsburg back in command in the 63rd minute when he had acres of room in the box to meet a cross from Luiz Gustavo before giving Oliver Baumann no chance to save his 12-yard drive to the far left corner. Kruse then completed his hat trick by turning in a cross from Andre Schurrle with seven minutes remaining as Wolfsburg made the points safe.
Bayer Leverkusen has a Champions League date with AS Roma on Tuesday, but could not break down the hosts in Hamburg in the scoreless draw while Darmstadt took control early against struggling Ausgburg. Sandro Warner leapt above and between defenders to head home a Konstantin Rausch corner in the seventh minute before Peter Niemeyer made good on Darmstadt's third attempt after a corner from the left was never cleared in the 29th minute.
Eintracht Frankfurt faced Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Saturday night match.