Lord Bendtner, his Wolves and the burgeoning Bundesliga

If the season-opening DFL Supercup was any indication, we're in for one hell of a ride in the Bundesliga this year. FFT.com editor Zee Ko is back from Germany and discusses Arturo Vidal, Nicklas Bendtner and Wolfsburg's football renaissance... 

Bundesliga champs

  • 2014-15 Bayern Munich
  • 2013-14 Bayern Munich
  • 2012-13 Bayern Munich
  • 2011-12 Borussia Dortmund
  • 2010-11 Borussia Dortmund

Nicklas Bendtner took the first steps in his unlikely journey to an unprecedented first FIFA Ballon d'Or a week-and-a-half ago, on a fine Saturday evening at the Volkswagen Arena. VfL Wolfsburg's unexpected equaliser in the DFL Supercup came courtesy of an unerring Josuha Guilavogui pass into space, a blistering Kevin De Bruyne run and a powerful finish from Bendtner high into the net to beat the world's best goalkeeper. The 70th-minute substitute has probably never been more loved during his time in Germany than at that very moment. Manuel Neuer didn't stand a chance and the home fans were rocking.

It had been a very different picture up to that point. Despite being at home, Wolfsburg's fans had been outsung by a merry band of Bayern Munich supporters, the majority of whom were congregated in the southeast corner of the stadium. The red shirts were visibly outnumbered about three-to-one by the green home kits, but their intentions were clear from the kick-off. They were here to bring the trophy back home.

Much of the pre-match excitement had been focused on one Arturo Vidal, with the Chilean Gold Cup winner having signed for the Bundesliga champions in a mega-money move from Italian side Juventus.

"I was thinking weeks ago that Vidal plays like me 20 or 30 years ago. He's a very aggressive box-to-box player, a No.8 player," gushed Bayern legend Lothar Matthaus the very morning of the match. "Munich missed a player like Vidal in the last two or three years because he's very aggressive, he has good technique, he's strong, he's pushing the team and he's a brilliant leader."

Arturo Vidal will bring his world-class talents to the Allianz Arena this season

The competitive debut would have to wait though, as the midfielder found himself on the bench alongside fellow midfielder Mario Gotze. There's quality all through the Bayern squad, which cantered to the Bundesliga title with a 10-point buffer and +28 goal difference to their nearest challengers Wolfsburg. In a way, this would be a proper clash of the two best teams from the previous season, with Die Wolfe having won the DFB-Pokal 3-1 to play party-poopers in Jurgen Klopp's farewell match with Borussia Dortmund.

The tale of the tape

DFB-Pokal winners

  • 2015 VfL Wolfsburg
  • 2014 Bayern Munich
  • 2013 Bayern Munich
  • 2012 Borussia Dortmund
  • 2011 Schalke 04

It's been six years since Wolfsburg's sole Bundesliga title, won under the delightfully madcap Felix Magath. The German taskmaster left after a second stint with the club in 2012, as the team cycled through a host of coaches that included Steve McClaren, Armin Veh and Pierre Littbarski in the interim. Since then strikers Grafite and Edin Dzeko, who scored more than 20 goals apiece in their title-winning season, have moved on to pastures new, replaced by the new guard of Bas Dost, Max Kruse and of course Bendtner (wearing an unorthodox No.3 jersey).

Dieter Hecking was the surprise pick to take over from Magath in December 2012, a fairly left-field choice given the club had been strongly linked to Bernd Schuster right up until the announcement. It appears to have been an inspired choice as they lifted the German Cup – Hecking's first major trophy of his coaching career – and finished Bundesliga runners-up last year. Nevertheless, Bayern were huge favourites going into this Supercup match-up, the four-time winners against the upstart debutants.

"If you look at past results, we played the first game of last season in Munich and lost it but the second leg we played here and won 4-1," said Wolfsburg Sporting Director Klaus Allof before the match. "Hopefully, the Bayern players are thinking about that and our players as well! It could be an advantage."

Dieter Hecking has overseen an impressive turnaround in fortunes with Wolfsburg

The first half featured plenty of end-to-end action, but no goals. De Bruyne looked in excellent nick for the hosts, while Brazilian winger Douglas Costa impressed on debut for Bayern. Up front, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski reacted to every missed chance with grimaces and frustrated roars at the sky, the former even thumping the ground in frustration after failing to get on the end of one particular ball.

And then four minutes after the break disaster struck for Wolfsburg as goalkeeper Koen Casteels misjudged a cross from Douglas and fumbled it in front of goal. The wily Arjen Robben needed no second invitation, slamming the ball home before wheeling away in celebration. It seemed harsh on Casteels, who'd done well to that point, but such is football.

The minutes ticked away, with the Bayern fans bouncing in the stands anticipating an early first trophy of the season. This would make it five Supercups, drawing them level with Dortmund. But the football gods had other ideas, as they are wont to do.

Hail Lord Bendtner

With 20 minutes remaining, Hecking opted for an attacking double switch as he brought on Bendtner and Kruse for Ivan Perisic and an ineffective Dost. It looked very much like a last throw of the dice, given that Bendtner had scored just one league goal the previous season and been banished from the recent training camp to train alone by Hecking, who was unhappy with his striker's condition.

Almost immediately, the jokes started on Twitter. Surely the former Arsenal forward was going to score the equaliser? To get the joke, you have to understand the enigma that is Nicklas Bendtner. The Dane was highly rated by coaches at Arsenal, but seemed frustratingly unable to settle during his nine years at the Emirates. The problem seemed to be that the striker had a higher opinion of his ability than warranted. This was a man who, according to one anecdote, scored ten out of nine on a series of psychometric tests to rate 'self perceived confidence' during his time at the Gunners.

Wolfsburg lift their first ever Supercup trophy after a scintillating contest

DFL Supercup winners

  • 2015 VfL Wolfsburg
  • 2014 Bayern Munich
  • 2013 Bayern Munich
  • 2012 Borussia Dortmund
  • 2011 Schalke 04

And so as Wolfsburg toiled in an effort to find an equaliser, the Bayern fans rose to welcome the newest addition to their star-studded team. On came Vidal to a rousing ovation and it wasn't long before he was flying into challenges. It took only seconds for him to concede his first foul and eight minutes to get himself in the referees' book. He'll be a fine player for Bayern this season, the added steel to their midfield sure to be appreciated by his new teammates.

But the day would belong to none other than 'Lord' Bendtner, flying in at the near post to fire into the roof of the net with seconds remaining. With the home fans now driven to fever pitch in the stands, their new hero would step up once again to lash home the winning penalty for their first ever Supercup win. And Casteels? Wolfsburg's third-choice goalkeeper would redeem himself with a wonderful acrobatic block with his trailing leg to deny Xabi Alonso during the shootout. Because such is football.

Sometimes goals come from unexpected places – and sometimes even Nicklas Bendtner gets it right. Just like how the Great Dane is highly unlikely to win the Ballon d'Or, the Bundesliga might not beat the Premier League when it comes to television riches or global attention just yet. But it's definitely a league on the rise. From world-class talent to top-notch matches, what more could you want?

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Fox Sports' Bundesliga coverage in Singapore will kick-off with FC Bayern Munchen vs. Hamburger SV on Saturday 15 May, 2015.