Bayern Munich vs. Borussia M'Gladbach: 5 Things We Learned
Bayern Munich kicked off their new Bundesliga campaign tonight with a home tie against Lucien Favre's Moenchengladbach. They won 3-1 on goals from Arjen Robben, Mario Mandzukic and David Alaba, whilst an own goal from Dante offered the only moment of solace for the visitors.
In Pep Guardiola's Bundesliga debut, his new side didn't let him down in an opening home tie that proved to be rather pedestrian despite a few bumps along the way from the lively visitors.
The first half was a lively encounter, offering a tasty opening display worthy of the Bundesliga's triumphant return, which stayed goalless for no more than 12 minutes, before Robben opened the scoring with a wonderful flick over Marc-Andre ter Stegen off an assist from Franck Ribery.
Then, three minutes later, as if on cue, Mandzukic showed up for the second when he found himself in the right place at the right time during a set piece in which the initial shot rebounded straight in to the path of the striker, who happily slotted the ball away to double Bayern's lead.
The Bavarian side looked good and set for all three points after the second goal, following a flutter of half chances around the Gladbach box. That is, until an unfortunate tackle from Dante, whilst intercepting a strong Juan Arango cross in the 40th minute, bounced off the defender's foot and passed a surprised Manuel Neuer. Surprising in nature but reassuring in practice for Gladbach, as they picked up their pace and made things uncomfortable for Bayern before halftime.
The second half began in much the same vein for Gladbach and Bayern, as the visitors continued their pursuit of an equaliser.
New signings Raffael and Max Kruse offered plenty of space and opportunity for the Foals as they grew in to the game, whilst Bayern continued to pepper the Gladbach goalmouth with chances of their own. Both Neuer and Ter Stegen were needed at their best to keep the score at a minimum.
Alas, Bayern finally killed things off through peculiar measures when Alvara Dominguez handled the ball in the box, offering Thomas Muller an opportunity to score the third from the penalty box. However, Muller would miss thanks to an outstanding save from Ter Stegen, and Dominguez again handled the ball in pursuit of the rebound. DAlaba then stepped up and professionally put the ball in to the back of the net.
With that, 3-1 to Bayern, and ultimately game over for Gladbach.
To check what else came of this match, click "Begin Slideshow" to see what top five things we took from this opening encounter for the defending champions.
Ribery Is Still the Best Player in the Bundesliga
Twisting and turning seem to be all you'll get from Franck Ribery when he feels up to the challenge of taking on the opposition. From a simple jog to a flat-out sprint, the Frenchman offers a deft touch that alludes 99 percent of the players in today's game. And in a match like Friday night's, he simply looked untouchable.
In the only clean goal of the evening, of which Arjen Robben casually flicked a wondering ball over the approaching Andre ter Stegen, Ribery began the play by receiving a rifled pass up the field from defence before twirling on the spot and crafting a superb through ball to the Dutchmen without every looking up.
Similarly, the ever-present Bayern playmaker was in top form throughout the game as Bayern and Gladbach went toe-to-toe in a wonderful, counter-attacking duel. Whilst Tony Jantschke and Martin Stranzl tripped over themselves in pursuit of the tricky winger, Ribery continued to offer the consistent outlet of goal-scoring opportunities that brought Bayern so much success last season.
If the Frenchman ever was considered the third-best player in the World last season, he showed no signs of decay or torment tonight.
Andre ter Stegen Is Back to His Best
Despite Bayern's comprehensive win, Lucien Favre will take comfort in many aspects of his squad's performances tonight, but none more so than young goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen's outstanding array of saves to keep Gladbach within competitive distance of the defending champions over the course of the game.
Whether it was the fantastic double save in the first half that initially thwarted Toni Kroos' excellent dipping shot, or the block on Mario Mandzukic's header from the resulting header, or the excellent reaction save off of Thomas Muller's penalty in the second half, Ter Stegen gave a good account of himself with an extended example of the talent that has the goalkeeper so highly rated across Europe.
Whatever may be in store for the Foals this season, fans can rest easy in the knowledge that the man between the sticks is back to his best.
Dante Isn't Perfect
In what seems like a recurring theme for Bayern central defender Dante, an own goal against former side Gladbach once again got in the way of an otherwise perfect performance tonight.
Despite being nothing more than an obvious mistake, the own goal did proceed to spur Gladbach on toward a late equaliser before halftime. But as was not to be the case, Bayern held out until the halftime break to regain their thoughts and compose themselves once again.
Pep Looks to Favour 4-2-3-1
One of the most surprising features of tonight's game wasn't the extent of Bayern's win, one particular performance or even the nature of the Bundesliga's return, rather it was the manner in which Pep Guardiola set out the side in his first ever Bundesliga match.
Despite tormenting diehard and casual fans alike with his constant tinkering over the preseason, Bayern walked on to the pitch tonight in a very basic 4-2-3-1 formation that looked rather similar to the system that brought the Munich side so much success under Jupp Heynckes last season.
Whether this is just a temporary solution due to the absences of Thiago Alcantara and Mario Gotze—both out with injuries—from the starting team or indeed the plan A that Guardiola had always intended on using, nothing but time itself will confirm just what the Catalonian coach has in store for his Bayern side.
Yet for now they play 4-2-3-1.
Gladbach Look Good for a European Spot
Aside from the God-like powers of Andre ter Stegen in goals, Lucien Favre will have plenty of genuine good points to note down after tonight's encounter with Bayern Munich. Result aside, the Foals performed admirably against arguably the best side in World Football at the moment, with a number of standout performers of their own.
New signings Max Kruse and Raffael both looked the part when initially signed this summer to help bolster a stronger all-around attack at Borussia Park in the new Bundesliga campaign. They did just that throughout tonight's game, with the Brazilian forward in particular offering an experienced touch up front that proved truly instrumental in the side's counter-attacking ability.
Similarly Granit Xhaka, the young Swiss midfielder who joined the club last season but failed to make a name for himself, looked like a brand new signing with a proper preseason behind him. A number of young talents, from the established Patrick Herrmann to the untested Branimir Hrgota, pepper this side and offer a devilish sense of optimism that's been sorely missed since the days of Marco Reus.
For Favre, the new season truly begins on August 17 at home to Hannover, which is where this squad will begin their real test against similarly gifted sides, in the hope of continental competition once more. And if they continue to play with the same heart and courage that they showed tonight, then Europe shouldn't be too optimistic a dream.