Substitute Muller comes to the rescue as Bayern beat Stuttgart 1-0
Sven Ulreich's fantastic penalty save from the final kick of the game helped earn Bayern Munich a third successive 1-0 Bundesliga win after substitute Thomas Muller had broken Stuttgart's stubborn resistance on 79 minutes.
Bayern's sixth consecutive Bundesliga title looks a mere formality heading into the winter break, moving 11 points clear of nearest challengers Schalke with another precious win and clean sheet.
Bayern made heavy weather of beating Stuttgart for a 13th Bundesliga game in succession and could have had no complaints if the game had ended in a draw.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Wielded the rotation stick, making six changes to the team that scrapped to a win against bottom-of-the-table Cologne, Jupp Heynckes took his tally to 14 wins in 15 games since his return for a fourth spell in charge of Bayern, bringing back Ulreich and introducing Muller to score the game's only goal. One last push remains before the winter break with a mouthwatering DFB Pokal clash with Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in Munich.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Sven Ulreich, 9 -- Back in the lineup after hurting his adductor in the warm-up in Frankfurt, the former Stuttgart keeper shrugged off the resounding boos and whistles for 94 minutes as he returned to hurt VfB with a stunning last-second penalty save to secure another precious three points. "Ulle" is proving an outstanding backup for the injured Manuel Neuer; who would have been bold enough to suggest that just a couple of months ago?
DF Rafinha, 6 -- Solid, reliable and continues to prove his versatility, filling in at left-back this time for David Alaba, but the Brazil international provides little of the Austrian's attacking flair.
DF Jerome Boateng, 6 -- Captain for the day, Boateng suffered a nasty clash of heads with ex-Bayern favourite Holger Badstuber in the first half. Slowly returning to his best after a lengthy battle with a succession of muscle injuries, he picked up a deserved caution soon after for a lunge on Simon Terodde and while he had his problems coping defensively, he almost scored too with a fierce drive that had Ron-Robert Zieler at full stretch after 66 minutes.
DF Mats Hummels, 6 -- Celebrating his 29th birthday, the birthday boy shook off a heavy cold to start, getting 68 vital minutes in his legs before facing his former employer Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal on Wednesday.
DF Joshua Kimmich, 7 -- A team-high 103 touches of the ball against his boyhood club Stuttgart, roaming the right flank all day with verve and panache.
MF Javi Martinez, 6 -- Looks slightly off the pace and not able to provide the securest of shield's in front of the defence.
MF Arturo Vidal, 6 -- Luckily escaped a yellow card for a typically robust tackle in the first half, the combative Chilean toiled feverishly for 95 minutes and would probably be still going if the referee did not blow the final whistle.
MF Corentin Tolisso, 5 -- Bayern's record signing missed the best chance of the first half when clean through on 36 minutes and was hooked off after the hour mark with Heynckes still searching for an elusive goal.
MF James Rodriguez, 7 -- Classy on the ball throughout, the Colombian playmaker played in Tolisso superbly for the best chance of the opening period. Still going strong into the final minutes when he should have put the game to bed on the counterattack, sparing Bayern some nervy final moments.
MF Kingsley Coman, 7 -- Got a good working over from his impressive compatriot Benjamin Pavard but grew into the game in the second half, seeing a snapshot stopped by Zieler and then feeding Muller for the game's only goal.
FW Robert Lewandowski, 6 -- Almost opened the scoring in the first minutes but blasted into the side netting. Lewandowski brought out the best in Zieler on 20 minutes, but despite a team-best four shots on goal, could not find a way past the ex-Leicester and Manchester United goalkeeper. Should have killed the game off on the break in the final minute in tandem with James, before the last-gasp penalty drama up the other end.
MF Thomas Muller, 8 -- Replaced Tolisso on 65 minutes and popped up with a precious winner with an exquisite first-time finish, doubling his tally of league goals this season. Incidentally, Bayern are unbeaten in 77 league games when Muller finds the net (73 wins and 4 draws).
DF Niklas Sule, 5 -- Replaced his Germany teammate Hummels on 68 minutes, but conceded the penalty (via VAR) in the final seconds for kicking Santiago Ascacibar on the shin. Thankfully, for Sule, his keeper bailed him out of trouble so no one will remember this come the spring.
DF David Alaba, N/R -- Replaced the tiring Coman with six minutes remaining in an effort to preserve the lead. It worked. Just.
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.