Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes felt for Wolfsburg after Robert Lewandowski scored a dramatic stoppage-time penalty to snatch a 2-1 victory at the Volkswagen Arena.
Daniel Didavi broke the deadlock to give the hosts a surprise eighth-minute lead and Arjen Robben failed to level early in the second half from the penalty spot thanks to a fantastic save from goalkeeper Koen Casteels.
But Sandro Wagner grabbed an equaliser with a deft header after 65 minutes before substitute
Lewandowski’s winner as Bayern’s much-changed team extended their lead at the top of the Bundesliga table to 21 points with their 13th successive win in all competitions.
Heynckes felt the impact of substitute Thomas Muller turned the match in Bayern’s favour after the home side frustrated the runaway leaders for long periods.
“After the early opener Wolfsburg set up their game with a compact defence,” said the 72-year-old on the Bayern website. “We struggled in the first half because we failed to set up sustained passing combinations in our build-up play.
“I knew we wouldn’t score this way. We played more fluently and with more pace in the second half.
“We changed our play when Thomas Muller came on because he’s very agile, exploits the space and also opens up space for his teammates. Then we scored the equaliser, which was crucial.
“You can call us lucky for turning the tide in the closing stages. It’s very bitter for Wolfsburg because they fought outstandingly.”
Martin Schmidt was taking charge of his 100th Bundesliga match of his managerial career and Wolfsburg had looked on course to celebrate the 50-year-old’s landmark in style.
However, Schmidt was philosophical after a defeat which left his side just one point above the bottom three in 13th place.
“We had high hopes today and defended well over long periods,” he said. “In the first half we allowed almost nothing through which is positive.
“We lost the game in attack today, because we never really caused a threat and gave away the ball far too easily.
“That’s a real shame, because we had a set plan for where the ball should go. In the second half we switched the play well on two or three occasions, but the final pass continually let us down and we failed to breach their defensive line.
“Ultimately, we could not withstand the pressure and our energy levels began to drain. That’s how the game eventually got away from us – it was too little to earn a win.”
Muller, who came off the bench to make his 422nd appearance for Bayern in all competitions to move into joint 12th on the club’s all-time list, hailed the Bavarian side’s character to earn victory.
“In the second half, we showed the will to win, even if things might not be so exciting any more up there at the top. It’s fun — this team’s just awesome,” the Germany international said.
“We didn’t find our rhythm and weren’t so aggressive with the ball either. We didn’t play badly but we weren’t determined or direct enough. That’s why we were 1-0 down at half-time.
“But in the second half we showed a totally different attitude going forward and created a lot of chances.”