Lovell’s Lowdown: Citizens Fail to Arrest Bayern
Bayern Munich sent shockwaves around the rest of Europe as the Champions League holders’ outclassed Manchester City in a 3-1 victory away from home. Mark Lovell dissects the quality of the visitors’ performance.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola tinkered with the line-up (no surprise there) as he left out leading striker Mario Mandžukić, with midfielder Toni Kroos replacing the unfortunate Croatian – the only change from the starting line up in the narrow weekend win over VfL Wolfsburg.
A fluid front three of Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry interchanged – the German international (Müller) the most advanced playing at the tip of Pep’s triangle. Pre-match many (including myself) mused as to how Bayern would fare without an out and out striker. They needn’t have worried.
In truth, the hosts never recovered from a terrible start, going behind in the sixth minute after Ribéry’s long range drive found its way past England’s number one. Cue possession football from Bayern, creating chances at will. Ribéry and Robben were rampant and took a potentially passionate crowd out of the game with driving runs from tormenting amounts of possession. This was one way traffic and a footballing lesson to the English side, with City lucky to go into the break only a goal down. Bayern broke with breath-taking speed, regularly outnumbering the home side on the counterattack.
Second half goals from Müller and the rejuvenated Robben put the game to bed as Bayern celebrated a stunning success. The Dutchman even managed to score the third with his less-favoured right foot. Perhaps Alvaro Negredo’s 80th minute consolation for City and Jerome Boateng’s late dismissal might provide Matthias Sammer with something to complain about after all, although Boateng’s decision looked a well calculated one in the end.
This was a supreme performance and tactical masterpiece from Pep. Bayern should have crowned their commanding display with a goal or two more for the 2,600 Bayern fans that made the trip to England’s second city. Not that you would have known from the incessant noise the away fans made during their side’s training-like outing on Wednesday night.
It’s a rarity these days to stay unbeaten in the revised Champions League format. In 22 seasons, only Barcelona (2005-6) and Manchester United (a couple of seasons later) have managed this feat. Even last year, Bayern succumbed to BATE Borisov away from home and Arsenal on their way to sealing the trophy at Wembley.
No team has ever defended the Champions League. It is hard to argue against Bayern, a side in this form, being the first to change that statistic, and remain unbeaten in the process.