Sep 17, 2013, 7:32 PM EST
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.
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.
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.
Mar 5, 2015, 11:32 PM EST
This one will put a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.
Mar 5, 2015, 10:22 PM EST
Because who doesn’t love to critique and compare every team’s new jerseys?
Mar 5, 2015, 8:53 PM EST
The dribble was a thing of beauty, but he still had to apply the finish. Not a problem for Salah.
Mar 5, 2015, 8:15 PM EST
The season is officially on. Here’s a few reasons to get excited, in case you’re not already. (You should be.)
Mar 5, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
Jeff Cassar impressed in year one, but can he rebuild RSL and make them his own in year two?
Mar 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Bruce’s boys are back, and once again, rebuilt. This changes little for a team with more championship aspirations.
Mar 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Caleb Porter’s final foray in the Rose City? He’ll need the playoffs this year, otherwise…
Mar 5, 2015, 3:19 PM EST
After winning two of three titles last season, can the Sounders finally clinch that pesky MLS Cup?
Mar 5, 2015, 2:45 PM EST
From expansion team finishing first to making the playoffs to finishing in last, our writers have varied opinions on how MLS will unfold in 2015.
Mar 5, 2015, 2:08 PM EST
PST’s Editor and Lead Writer looks back at the midweek madness, and assesses where we are at with 10 games to go.
Mar 5, 2015, 1:20 PM EST
Can the Revs build on a fantastic 2014? Heaps hopes so…
Mar 5, 2015, 12:50 PM EST
In the latest MiB pod, Alexi Lalas stops by to preview the 2015 MLS season.
Mar 5, 2015, 12:20 PM EST
Here’s what the MLS commish had to say about the new CBA, as months of negotiating finally paid off on Wednesday.
Mar 5, 2015, 11:40 AM EST
Who will bounce back or come from nowhere to shine in 2015? Here’s a speculative look.
Mar 5, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
Saints’ players get stuck into some hockey on a break in Switzerland.
Mar 5, 2015, 10:06 AM EST
Evans and Cisse could face six-game ban if found guilty.
Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST
How will the Red Bulls get on as Marsch ushers in a new era?
Mar 5, 2015, 8:47 AM EST
Should the league or the players feel happier on the eve of the 2015 season after a new CBA was agreed?
Mar 5, 2015, 8:07 AM EST
Reid is going nowhere, as New Zealand international signs new deal at Upton Park.
Mar 4, 2015, 10:51 PM EST
Charlie Austin played well, and the club truly appeared unlucky not to find an equalizer in the 2-1 loss. They were a step off all night.
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