Skip to content

Dominant performance sees Bayern Munich make strides to open title defense

Sep 17, 2013, 7:32 PM EDT

If you’re the type to look for smudges on a Rubens, there were two complaints you could make about Bayern Munich ahead of today’s UEFA Champions League opener. They don’t seem as good as last year, your case would start, but given they posted a +80 goal difference in league, some regression was inevitable. More indicting: The adjustment they’re undergoing under Pep Guardiola leaving teams too close, and while they’re dominating games and rarely giving up chances, they’ve often kept teams within one defensive error or well-executed counter attack of getting a result. (This is where I reference the Freiburg result for the 86th time).

Tuesday’s 3-0 over CSKA Moscow addressed both of those concerns, but the extent to which they answered the critiques depends on how you view early goals. David Alaba, summoning the same fortune that saw him score in last year’s Champions League against Gianluigi Buffon, curved a third minute free kick off Igor Afineev’s hands and into CSKA’s goal. With the lead, Bayern didn’t have to expose their defense or press as they would have while needing a goal. With 87 minutes left to play, Bayern not only had their earliest lead of the season but also a scoreline particularly advantageous to their ball-hogging style.

[MORE: Champions League Roundup: Upsets give way to goals.]

It’s easy to dispel that theory, thought. Just note that Bayern, after going up one, didn’t change their approach. And for most of the match, CSKA didn’t either. They couldn’t afford to. The fourth minute is too early to change, open up, and start chasing the match. That would have been a recipe for something worse than a 3-0 loss.

What we’re left with is Bayern’s most impressive performance of the season: A controlling, multi-goal victory; against a quality opponent; in an unquestionably meaningful game (as opposed to the German or UEFA Super Cups). Monopolizing possession (69 percent), dominating shots (20-8), and dwarfing their opponent’s shots on goal (9-2), Bayern played out Guardiola’s vision to perfection. And they did so without Javi Martinez, Mario Götze, or a fully healthy Bastian Schweinsteiger.

source: AP

Arjen Robben, who scored Bayern’s third goal today against CSKA, has scored 14 Champions League goals since moving to Munich in the summer of 2009. (Photo: AP Photo.)

People may dismiss the performance because of the opposition, but it’s be better to say CSKA had a bad day. Or Bayern are always capable of posting this type of performance at home (ask Barcelona). The Russians have a normally world class goalkeeper, experienced defense, a quality central midfielder (Pontus Wernbloom) and two legitimately dangerous players in attack: Japanese international Keisuke Honda and Nigerian international Ahmed Musa. They were without Alan Dzageov, often their best player in recent years, but with CSKA seeing very little of the ball in Munich, the young Russian wouldn’t have helped them today.

This was the type of performance Guardiola may have been waiting for: A proof of concept that can propel the team forward. The one- and two-goal victories that have filled the start of their Bundesliga campaign were filled with promise, but until a day like today, it was unclear when that promise would come good. Now the question is whether Bayern can build on this breakout Saturday at Schalke, or will a team more familiar with their personnel be better equipped to slow them down?

Having scored twice from set pieces on Tuesday, there is reason to think Bayern’s still not fully clicking. But that gets back to the influence of Alaba’s goal – an early tally that allowed FCB to exercise patience. If they score early at the Veltins-Arena, we’ll likely see another game like today’s. If not, FCB may still be able to use the momentum of their season’s best performance to start meeting some of last year’s standards.

Latest Posts
  1. Cardiff’s promotion hopes take hit: Caulker to QPR; Medel to Inter?

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:03 PM EDT

    steven-caulker-interview-160064-1775672_1600x900

    Inter Milan and Queens Park Rangers have swooped in for two of the Bluebirds’ best players, and Vincent Tan probably isn’t too happy.

  2. EXCLUSIVE: Luke Shaw speaks out about Manchester United move

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Courtesy: Manchester United Courtesy: Manchester United

    Shaw speaks to PST: “Manchester United are the biggest club in the world. I didn’t think twice when they wanted to sign me.”

  3. Pep Guardiola praises Jurgen Klinsmann’s team concept, USMNT movement

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:39 PM EDT

    Jurgen_Klinsmann_1381686c AP

    When a guy many consider a footballing genius gives the United States coach praise, that’s a pretty cool feather in Klinsmann’s cap.

  4. Premier League teams on US Soil: Tuesday’s roundup and look ahead

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    10406860_10101280893066982_394995962427761541_n

    Premier Leaguers in the U.S. on Tuesday = A day of open training sessions, autographs, football helmets and golf clubs.

  5. Racial incident against Man City’s Fofana ends U-21 match in Croatia

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    twitter.com/sekofofana twitter.com/sekofofana

    The 19-year-old is a promising prospect, but is dealing with negative headlines after being subject to abuse on Tuesday in Croatia.

  6. Southampton fail in bid to bring England WC goalie back to Premier League

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT

    England Training Session and Press Conference Getty Images

    Fraser Forster will be sticking at Celtic, for now, after Southampton reportedly lowballed the Scottish powers.

  7. Beckham visits Manchester United; Team responds with many ‘selfies’

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    BtLQf7KCQAAehgb

    Hand on shoulder, hair-coiffed, warm smile… next! Becks makes the rounds on the United’s U.S. tour.

  8. Sorting through the most recent DaMarcus Beasley-to-MLS reports

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    APER SOC BEASLEY

    There have been reports of where the 32-year-old American left sider will not be going, but little as to where he will.

  9. WATCH: James hugs pitch invader; Bernabeu goes bananas for new star

    Jul 22, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez Officially Unveiled At Real Madrid Getty Images

    For every “stars… they’re just like us” moment a player gives you, there are moments like this, which will not happen to 99.9999% of us at work in our lives

  10. Report: Xavi’s move to New York City FC collapses, will remain at Barcelona

    Jul 22, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

    Xavi Hernandez, Marc Bartra

    Xavi set to remain at Barcelona until January, at least.

  11. Stoke City pull off superb signing, land Bojan Krkic from Barcelona

    Jul 22, 2014, 2:04 PM EDT

    bojan Getty Images

    Yeah. This is actually happened… as Stoke pull off a major coup.

  12. Pep Guardiola: For now, Julian Green will remain with Bayern Munich’s first team

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT

    Green

    Guardiola: “He trains well, he’s a good guy and my first idea is that he’s going to stay for the rest of the season.”

  13. Liverpool’s move for Dejan Lovren could be back on

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Will Lovren become the third Saints player to join Liverpool this summer? If the price is right, it sure looks that way.

  14. Do Real Madrid need $107 million James Rodriguez? Where will he play?

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

    Rodriguez AP

    Where will Rodriguez line up next season for Real? Here’s an in-depth look at the options.

  15. Back to the future: Dunga confirmed as Brazil’s new manager

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:56 AM EDT

    Carlos Dunga

    Second time around, Dunga will lead Brazil’s new era.

  16. Where does James Rodriguez’s $107 million transfer fee rank all-time?

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    james_rodriguez AP

    What do you get for $107 million in today’s world? A red-hot 23-year-old Colombian striker, that’s what.

  17. Jurgen Klopp denies Mats Hummels is heading to Manchester United, for now

    Jul 22, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    Borussia Dortmund's coach Klopp waves to supporters at the end of their Champions League quarter final first leg soccer match against Malaga in Malaga

    Klopp says Hummels is not for sale… not at the price reported anyway.

  18. Real Madrid sign James Rodriguez for $107 million

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:51 AM EDT

    james_rodriguez AP

    James is officially a Real Madrid player.

  19. Shakhtar players reveal “deadly risk” and fear of returning to Ukraine

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:42 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Douglas Costa: “We all run a deadly risk if we are in the region.”

  20. Manchester United linked with $55 million Juan Cuadrado move

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:49 AM EDT

    Colombia v Uruguay: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Will the Colombian winger be heading to Old Trafford this summer?