April 30, 2017 / 4:28 AM / 4 months ago

Bayern come out top under Ancelotti's light touch

Football Soccer - VFL Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich - Bundesliga - Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg, Germany - 29/4/17 Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti celebrates after the match after winning the Bundesliga Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach Livepic

BERLIN (Reuters) - Most Bayern Munich fans had hoped for more than just one title in coach Carlo Ancelotti's first season in charge.

But when Bayern sealed a record-extending fifth consecutive Bundesliga crown on Saturday with a 6-0 demolition of VfL Wolfsburg, most of them also breathed a big sigh of relief, knowing that the world was still in order.

Bayern had gone through what amounted to a mini-crisis in recent weeks, failing to win any of their last five matches in all competitions and being eliminated from the German Cup and Champions League.

After hopes of a possible treble-winning season drained away, Bayern saw their Bundesliga lead shrink from 13 points to seven before Saturday's win.

Their late-season wobble, however, never really put their championship chances at risk with Ancelotti's team having done all the heavy lifting earlier in the campaign to make sure they remained the dominant force in Germany for yet another season.

"The Bundesliga comes first," Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had said, with each coach, including Ancelotti, making the league win their top priority.

Ancelotti took over from Spaniard Pep Guardiola and their styles could not have been more different. A control-obsessed coach, Guardiola had created a winning machine, capable of obliterating any opposition in Germany.

The Italian is far more hands-off, more interested in winning games than offering a goal bonanza or running his players into the ground.

Football Soccer - VFL Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich - Bundesliga - Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg, Germany - 29/4/17 Bayern Munich's players celebrate after the match after winning the Bundesliga Reuters / Fabian Bimmer Livepic

He brushed off criticism over what some said was a too-light training regime while also comfortably handling his big-name players and ambitious club bosses, who never stopped backing him.

NARROW WINS

Ancelotti created an efficient team, capable of grinding out one-goal victories as easily as high-score wins. Sometimes he even seemed to prefer those narrow wins, saying they built character.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Bayern started off with five victories in a row to take control of the league early on and Thiago Alcantara quickly established himself as their playmaker under Ancelotti.

Thomas Mueller's goal drought had little effect as Robert Lewandowski continued his scoring run from last season and kept them a few points ahead of their main title rivals, promoted RB Leipzig, whom they beat before the winter break.

With Borussia Dortmund playing an inconsistent season, Bayern had essentially only themselves to beat as Leipzig gradually ran out of steam and eventually dropped more than a dozen points off the pace.

The Bavarians may look less invincible than under Guardiola, with their backline shaky at times, but they still lost only twice in the league this season, conceding just 17 goals in 31 games.

The addition of several players, including Germany internationals Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Suele next season, will no doubt keep them as the main title contenders despite the retirement of captain Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso.

"I am retiring, Alonso is retiring. Of course there will be change at some point," Lahm said on Saturday. "But there won't be a big bang. The squad is already largely here."

Editing by Clare Fallon

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