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. Claudio Bravo very impressed by rival Barcelona ‘keeper Ter Stegen

    Aug 1, 2014, 11:44 PM EDT

    Bravo Getty Images

    The 22-year-old is giving the 31-year-old all he can handle, and Barcelona looks set to forget Victor Valdes quickly.

  2. MLS Snapshot: Sporting KC 1-1 Philadelphia Union

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:44 PM EDT

    Zusi Getty Images

    Goalkeeping starred in the first half before one a-piece settled the score.

  3. Reports: Geoff Cameron, seeking CB time, draws heavy Premier League interest

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:09 PM EDT

    Cameron AP

    Geoff Cameron may no longer fit at Stoke City, and could get a CB role elsewhere.

  4. Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann flies with the Blue Angels

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:04 PM EDT

    Seattle Sounders FC Seattle Sounders FC

    Another Sounders keeper went up in the air, although he couldn’t remain awake for the whole flight.

  5. Watch Live: Sporting KC vs. Philadelphia Union (Lineups and Discuss)

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:56 PM EDT

    KCPhilly Getty Images

    Two Eastern Conference teams on unbeaten streaks meet at Sporting Park in Kansas City.

  6. Wenger says Arsenal defender Vermaelen could be on the move this summer

    Aug 1, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT

    Vermaelen Getty Images

    The Arsenal captain saw his games drop significantly last season, and would be a fantastic grab for Manchester United.

  7. Norwich striker Van Wolfswinkel close to St. Etienne loan, manager confirms

    Aug 1, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    VanWolfswinkel Getty Images

    After a very disappointing debut season with Norwich City, the Dutch striker is off to France.

  8. Olave suspended two matches, Cahill and Morales fined for incident Wednesday

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:55 PM EDT

    Morales AP

    A head-scratching moment by the New York defender cost him two games, while the ensuing melee dug into the wallets of others.

  9. Learn the chants for every Premier League team!

    Aug 1, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT

    Countdown15

    With helpful videos, NBC is getting you ready for the upcoming Premier League season just days away!

  10. Crimean conflict envelops soccer as Russia and Ukraine each lay claim to clubs

    Aug 1, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT

    Ukraine AP

    Despite reports to the contrary a month ago, it appears the newly-added Crimean clubs will indeed play in the Russian leagues next season.

  11. Reports: Frank Lampard likely to take a short-term loan at Manchester City

    Aug 1, 2014, 3:52 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    After 13 years at Chelsea, there’s a good chance Frank Lampard could play at Stamford Bridge again…in a lighter shade of blue.

  12. Updated team-by-team list of Premier League transfers this summer

    Aug 1, 2014, 3:18 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 2.48.16 PM

    Arsenal, Newcastle and West Ham are among the teams who’ve loaded up on talent.

  13. VIDEO: Comedian Mike Myers talks Liverpool love, North American soccer

    Aug 1, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT

    article-2711446-2024907900000578-802_634x402

    Myers and actor Daniel Craig were among the luminaries on hand to watch Liverpool take on Manchester City at Yankee Stadium.

  14. Friday transfer rumor roundup: Latest on Hummels, Lampard’s City loan?

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT

    Frank Lampard AP

    Silly season has reached an absurd level, with even sports books creating rumors out of club links.

  15. US U23 list for Bahamas camp unveiled as Olympic prep continues

    Aug 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Lee Yong, Luis Gil AP

    Birmigham City defender Will Packwood and Southampton goalkeeper Cody Cropper are on the list of U-23 stars preparing for the Bahamas.

  16. Guus Hiddink to Netherlands headlines trio of new international hires

    Aug 1, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    dick-advocaat AP

    Serbia and the Ivory Coast also tab new bosses as the race for continental and world glory continues.

  17. Red card salute, swear jar donations help fund for slain Michigan ref

    Aug 1, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Soccerly Soccerly

    Fans of Detroit City FC helped raise money for slain Michigan referee John Bieniewicz via a “swear jar”, then saluting him with silent red card salute.

  18. Europa League penalty miss from Tom Huddlestone is hard to watch

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    York City v Hull City- Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    A great save followed up by an awful rebound, as Hull draws Trencin 0-0 in its Europa League debut.

  19. Jenkinson, Hangeland, Ferreyra all find new Premier League homes

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Brede Hangeland AP

    West Ham, Crystal Palace and Newcastle have all added players for 2014/15, according to reports.

  20. New York City FC could be a proving ground for Man City youth

    Aug 1, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT

    NYCFC Lampard Soccer AP

    Would City’s best prospects playing in MLS be a boon for the league, or lend the league a minor league image it’s trying to escape?