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.
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.
Sep 17, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
A dog home ravaged by fire last week believes Mario Balotelli has made a sizable donation.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT
Joe Prince-Wright and myself sat down with Jenna Corrado to discuss what City and Chelsea each need to accomplish to secure victory.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT
Looking for complete transparency, however, Van Gaal has laid down the law: English only.
Sep 17, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT
Marcelo Claure has hinted that news regarding a potential MLS franchise in Miami could soon be on it’s way.
Sep 17, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT
“Remy could have scored, Terry could have scored, Hazard could have scored, but that’s football,” Mourinho said.
Sep 17, 2014, 7:54 PM EDT
Gazzetta dello Sport claims that one CSKA fan who had been stabbed in the stomach.
Sep 17, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
Gotta love Ajax fans, they’re always loud, positive and pretty darn clever.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Living off the counter-attack, Schalke looked for Draxler every time out the gates.
Sep 17, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT
Toure’s inept displays bring up question marks over his commitment to Man City.
Sep 17, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT
What happened across Europe in the Champions League? Here’s a recap of all eight games.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
A solid outing by Chelsea but Jose Mourinho’s side will rue their lack of finishing in the final third.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
An impressive display from Roma who will fancy their chances of an upset against Manchester City and Bayern Munich in Group E.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:41 PM EDT
Boateng’s late volley hands Bayern win against stubborn City.
Sep 17, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT
Nothing like breaking your nose in the third minute and playing the full 90. Beast.
Sep 17, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT
Find out what’s going on around Europe as the group stage openers continue.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
The former Manchester United legend has had difficulty finding results for the troubled Welsh side.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT
For live updates from the Allianz Arena, look no further.
Sep 17, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT
After a hot start to their Premier League campaign, Aston Villa has extended Paul Lambert’s contract until June of 2018.
Sep 17, 2014, 1:20 PM EDT
On this day 14 years ago, Barcelona signed Lionel Messi. The rest is history.
Sep 17, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT
European giants clash as Manchester City travels to Germany to take on the mighty Bayern squad.
- Julian Draxler’s stunning performance puts Chelsea, Premier League on high alert 0
- Yaya Toure’s lackluster display stands out as Manchester City struggle 3
- UEFA Champions League roundup: Roma, Porto win big; Chelsea, PSG slip up 0
- Chelsea 1-1 Schalke 04: Huntelaar secures point for the underdogs 0
- Bayern Munich 1-0 Manchester City: Last-gasp win for Bayern in Bavaria 2
- Men In Blazers podcast: A happy PL return, while Spencer Lanning talks ‘football’ 0