Bayern opens title defense in style

Posted by Susie Schaaf

"The style we play is Bayern's style, not mine. I'm here to support my new players and I'm very proud of them today." -- Pep Guardiola

It's an interesting quote by Guardiola in light of a comprehensive win over CSKA Moscow, 3-0, to kick off Bayern Munich's title defense campaign. And when you look at the average positioning over the match, you'll see that Bayern -- despite officially playing with a 4-1-4-1-- played very effectively in its more "natural" (read: last season's) 4-2-3-1 set. Toni Kroos, while listed as an attacking midfielder, stayed back, along with captain Philipp Lahm, to devastating effect for a great Bayern result over an overwhelmed Moscow side.

- Report: Bayern begin defense with win

Bayern's "Man of the Match" David Alaba opened the scoring just four minutes in on a brilliant free kick; also cheekily chipping in for Arjen Robben's volley. Mario Mandzukic -- after coming close several times -- also got on the scoreboard, heading past CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev.

Lahm would once again start as "single pivot" as Bastian Schweinsteiger continues to climb back to full fitness, while Guardiola opted for a rested Dante in the back four, instead of Belgian Daniel van Buyten, who got the nod against Hannover. It was an encouraging match for the Brazilian, who since last April has been a bit shy of the form he's expected to be in. But, defensively, the whole back four would make a great account of themselves. Rafinha, recently a weak spot, put in a good 90 minutes, and Jerome Boateng was again outstanding, perhaps finally getting the recognition he deserves.

The chances would come fast and quick for Bayern at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday evening as Alaba crossed in to Mandzukic just two minutes in, before the Austrian would earn his own free kick from distance a minute later -- splitting the wall, and despite Akinfeev getting a hand on it -- scoring the opener.

Minutes later, Mandzukic bottled a one-on-one with the CSKA keeper that could've easily been kicked square to Thomas Mueller to double the lead. Yet the Croatian kept trying, heading over the box from an Alaba cross 14 minutes in after just missing out on Ribery's cross 30 seconds earlier.

Manuel Neuer, called into action only after nearly 20 minutes of play, passed out of danger only to see Robben get down field and cross just over the bar. Rafinha came on strong again in the 20th minute, crushing the side netting with a volley.

Vitinho had the best chance in the half for Moscow with a thumper from distance but it was easily saved by Neuer. Mandzukic tried to score again only to see his header unluckily bounce off the inside of the post directly to Akinfeev. But, he'd redeem himself five minutes later as Robben's kick found its way to his head and past Akinfeev.

Not too much complain about in the first half, except for possibly a better performance from Mueller, and a couple more goals. But, Moscow manager Leonid Slutsky must've talked some halftime wonders as Moscow had a much better second half than the first.

Still, Robben still got through only to see his effort saved majestically by Akinfeev at very close range from a Ribery cross. Shortly thereafter, the Dutchman would collect brilliantly from Alaba's chip, driving underneath the keeper.

Dante charmed referee Gianluca Rocchi out of giving him a yellow, pleading, "It was only my first foul", as Schweinsteiger came in for Kroos, Claudio Pizarro in for Mandzukic and Xherdan Shaqiri entered for Mueller. Schweinsteiger made a good account of himself over 20-odd minutes and Shaqiri would come close to adding a fourth goal twice.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Bayern Munich now find themselves joint top-of-the-table with Manchester City after the Mancs beat Viktoria Plzen. Bayern travels to Manchester in two weeks' time. Meanwhile, an enticing match against Schalke 04 beckons Saturday. And the inital defense of Munich's Champions League title couldn't have gone much better.


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