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Bayern Munich vs. Wolfsburg: Winners and Losers from Bundesliga Game

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2014

Bayern Munich vs. Wolfsburg: Winners and Losers from Bundesliga Game

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    Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    Bayern Munich won their Bundesliga opener against Wolfsburg on Friday, their 2-1 victory at the Allianz Arena picking them up where they left off at the end of their league-title-winning 2013-14 campaign.

    Thomas Muller put the hosts ahead in the first half and Arjen Robben doubled their advantage shortly after the break, but it was not exactly business as usual for the Bavarians. Ivica Olic pulled one back for the Lower Saxony side, who had their chances to equalize before full time.

    Bayern nonetheless took the spoils and probably deservedly so after Sebastian Rode's goal was called back apparently erroneously for offside. But although the German giants took all three points, the match had winners and losers from both sides. Click "Begin Slideshow" for a look at the players who came out the better and the worse from Friday's action.

Winner: Arjen Robben

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    Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    Arjen Robben began the club season where he left off at the World Cup. Although the Dutchman hadn't played a minute of competitive or noncompetitive football prior to Friday's match, he hit the ground running.

    Robben was a menace for Wolfsburg for much of the first half, his pace and close dribbling menacing the Wolfsburg defense as he ran between the lines and created play. The 30-year-old set up Thomas Muller's opener with a rare right-footed cross, then doubled Bayern's advantage with a very well-taken goal shortly after the restart.

    Robben may have missed a one-on-one with Max Grun late in the match, but his performance on the whole was exemplary. His productivity decided the match.

Loser: Manuel Neuer

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    Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    Manuel Neuer may have recently been named the German Footballer of the Year, but the 28-year-old looked something less than that on Friday. The renowned "sweeper-keeper" was a bit off in his timing and ball-work, putting his team into some dangerous positions.

    Ivica Olic deserves full credit for scoring an excellent goal against his former team, but the Croatian's shot would never have even been taken had it not been for an errant Neuer pass that led to a throw-in. With Bayern's lead reduced to one goal, he came off his line and had Juan Bernat to thank for Bayern not conceding an equalizer on 63 minutes. To his credit, he made a brilliant save to deny Junior Malanda, but that was certainly not enough to mask that the Germany international was well below his peak form.

    Neuer is uncommonly talented on the ball, but his performance against Wolfsburg was a reminder of the fine line between brilliance and embarrassment. A goalkeeper who plays too intricately at the back is always one mistake away from disaster. Neuer will need to be sharper in the weeks and months to come.

     

Winner: Max Grun

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    Wolfsburg had to use their No. 2 goalkeeper, Max Grun, ahead of Diego Benaglio on Friday, but the back-up proved himself a worthy Bundesliga player and then some.

    Bayern's intricate passing led to many through-passes being played to the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, but Grun was always quick off his line to reach the ball a split-second ahead of the oncoming attacker.

    Grun gave Lewandowski more than a headache on the day. He made a brilliant save to deny an Ibrahimovic-esque volley from the Pole near the half-hour mark and later came out better in a one-on-one situation.

Loser: Junior Malanda

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Junior Malanda was one of the best midfielders at any age in the Bundesliga during the spring, and heading into this season, he is rightly regarded as one of the league's best prospects. But one mistake he made in Munich may haunt him for quite some time.

    The 19-year-old had a golden opportunity to level the score in the latter stages of the game but had his initial shot saved off the crossbar and was unable to react to the rebound quickly enough to convert on a second chance.

    Still photos will suggest the miss of the century, and sadly, that may be what viewers remember from the incident. In fairness, Malanda was trying to decelerate to avoid crashing through the net and had almost no time to react to the ball as it crashed back off the bar. He ought to have scored nonetheless and will both remember and be remembered for his miss for some time.

Loser: Robert Lewandowski

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    Joerg Sarbach/Associated Press

    Robert Lewandowski failed to get his name on the score sheet for a third consecutive game, and for the first time as a Bayern player, his nerves began to show. The Polish striker failed to convert a penalty in Bayern's DFB-Pokal opener and now remains scoreless in competitive matches since his move to Munich earlier this summer.

    Lewandowski should be credited for playing a big role in Arjen Robben's goal and also for putting an acrobatic volley on target. But after his volley was saved, it was as though the former Dortmund man lost some confidence and began to over-think in front of goal. That showed when he botched a one-on-one with Max Grun shortly after the hour mark.

    After playing so brilliantly during the preseason, Lewandowski looked to have settled in quite well at Bayern. But based on the first three competitive matches of the season, he apparently has much more to show. Lewandowski's time will come, but only once he calms his nerves.

     

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