Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Champions League Match Review: Bayern Munich 3 CSKA Moscow 0

Recent happenings at Bayern Munich are a classic example of how to manufacture a crisis where there is none. After having won the treble, the Bavarian club have changed their head coach and the transition has resulted so far in a mere two points dropped at Freiburg. Yet, during coach Pep Guardiola’s press conference before the Champions League opener against CSKA Moscow, he found himself fielding questions, about comments made by his Sporting Director Matthias Sammer who criticised the Bayern players after their 2-0 win against Hannover last Saturday. Yes that’s right, a 2-0 win.

Sammer’s remarks elicited a reproach from no more imposing a figure than Uli Hoeness. The club president said that Borussia Dortmund would be laughing at Bayern’s expense following Sammer’s outburst. And you’d have to say he had a point because while it is fair to say the Bayern have not been the rampant trans-European express from last season, were it not for Dortmund’s perfect start Bayern would be top of the Bundesliga table, right now.

Respite


The Champions League provided the opportunity then to focus minds on the football and a home opener against a decent but beatable CSKA Moscow side would prove a worthy adversary and allow Guardiola’s players to address the concerns of their sporting director and give the scribes something else to talk about. They did not disappoint.

This was one of the most one sided performances you’re likely to see in the Champions League and although much had been made of the Guardiola style this Bayern performance had stronger echoes of last season’s team. The flank player’s bamboozled the CSKA defenders with their versatility. Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben frequently switched sides and would also be found playing down the middle as the nominal front men, Thomas Müller and Mario Mandžukić would deputise. Supporting Ribéry and Robben were the full backs, Rafinha and David Alaba, the latter being the player to open scoring after four minutes with free kick from range that eluded CSKA keeper, Igor Akinfeev, as the ball bounced just before his gloves.

In those opening minutes it looked as though Ribéry was going to the roast the opposition full back, Kirill Nababkin. However, the Russian maintained his composure and was to an extent spared by Bayern’s positional rotation of their forward players. CSKA did, fo a few minutes mid way through the first half, manage to recover enough to press Bayern off the ball and force enough loose passes out of them to fashion a half chance via a long range effort from Ahmed Musa. Despite this, Mandžukić still managed to miss a couple of golden chances, one of which bounced off the post. That was before he finally headed in from a free kick by Arjen Robben to make the score 2-0.

Flawless Kroos


While the wide men continued to hover and attack, Phillip Lahm, a seeming natural in his relatively uncommon position of defensive midfielder put in what appeared to be an effortless performance in front of the back two (and yes, it was a back two). Just slightly ahead of Lahm was Toni Kroos, who took advantage of the extra space in front of him created  by the otherwise preoccupied CSKA midfielders to make killer passes out to the aforementioned wide players and the marauding Thomas Müller.

The third goal came in the second half. Unsurprisingly the move began out wide with Rafinha linking up with Ribery whose passing and movement at breakneck speed was a hallmark of last season’s Bayern. The ball was floated over to Alaba in a central position who lobbed the ball into the area where the onrushing Robben who, unmarked, calmly slotted home.

It is difficult to criticise CSKA too harshly as they were hardly given a second to think. On 39 minutes, Vitinho managed a mazy if ineffective run in the midfield but there were no options for him and inevitably he was dispossessed by Robben and forced to try and draw a foul for his trouble. Similarly, Keisuke Honda wasn’t given a kick and the only real opportunity he had was from a free kick that he wasted. The Muscovites will have better days.

Less Pep 


After the game, Guardiola was quoted by UEFA as saying “the style we play is Bayern’s style not mine.” which is a somewhat contrary perspective. However, judging by that performance it is difficult to argue. Bayern are set fair for another successful campaign in Europe and Matthias Sammer can feel as though his work is done.