Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben both scored as Bayern Munich kicked off their latest title challenge with a 2-1 victory at home to Wolfsburg on Friday at the Allianz Arena in the opening match of the Bundesliga season.
After dominating throughout the first half, Bayern finally took the lead in the 37th minute through Muller, who finished first-time from Robben's cross.
Robben then scored Bayern's second early in the second half after playing a fine one-two with new teammate Robert Lewandowski.
Wolfsburg pulled a goal back through Ivica Olic's curling strike but were unable to equalise, with Junior Malanda missing from close range in the final 10 minutes. Bayern also had two goals ruled out, including a late strike from Sebastian Rode that would have sealed the victory.
The match marked the Bundesliga debut for Gianluca Gaudino. FC Bayern English noted that, at 17 years and 284 days old, he became Bayern's fourth-youngest debutant in league play:
Bayern, runaway winners of the last two Bundesliga titles, strengthened again in the summer with the signing of Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund, their nearest rivals.
Lewandowski, a Polish international striker, spurned multiple chances and did not score against Wolfsburg, but his addition to an already-strong squad should make Bayern favourites to win the league yet again this season.
Meanwhile, the Bavarians will also hope to make a deep run in the UEFA Champions League, a competition they last won in 2012-13.
The draw for that competition is set for Thursday in Monaco, with Bayern included among the top-seeded teams.
Two days later, the Reds will play their second league match of the season at Schalke. Last season's third-place finishers, Schalke will be looking to make an early statement of intent, but a win for Bayern would put some space between them and at least one would-be challenger early in the season.
Against Wolfsburg, Bayern dominated from the start but needed most of the first half to make the breakthrough.
Muller had the game's first chance in the 12th minute after accepting a pass from Philipp Lahm, but his shot was saved by Wolfsburg goalkeeper Max Grun.
Bayern looked to have taken the lead in the 27th minute. David Alaba slipped a pass through to Robben, who set up Lewandowski to finish. However, Robben had been ruled offside in the buildup and the goal was disallowed.
Lewandowski then had a shot tipped over in the 29th minute as Bayern tried to turn up the pressure.
The dominance paid off in the 37th minute, as Muller grabbed the opening goal. Robben served as the provider, beating a defender down the right before crossing low into the box. With his first touch, Muller redirected the ball into the net at the bottom left corner for a 1-0 lead.
The score remained the same until half-time, but within moments of the restart, Bayern doubled their lead.
This time, Robben was the scorer, picking up possession in midfield before playing a one-two pass with Lewandowski. After accepting the return ball, Robben raced in on goal, cut back to set up his left foot and drove his finish past Grun.
Bayern appeared to be cruising to victory, but Wolfsburg pulled a goal back five minutes later.
Receiving a throw-in on the right, Olic took advantage of a pocket of space near the corner of the box and lifted a fine, curled shot over Manuel Neuer to make it 2-1 in the 52nd minute.
Replays later showed that Olic controlled the ball with his hand before releasing his goal-bound shot. It was not spotted by the referee, and Wolfsburg were suddenly back in the match.
From there, the visitors pushed hard for the equaliser and nearly found it in the 79th minute—only to be denied by a shocking miss.
Malanda, a second-half substitute, latched on to a cross from the left and tested Neuer with a first-time shot on target. Neuer parried the ball onto the bar, but the rebound fell directly to Malanda, who managed to miss the unguarded goal from no more than two yards.
Bayern nearly took advantage five minutes later as substitute Rode put the ball in the net from a Robben cross. However, the goal was ruled out for offside on Muller, with replays showing the latter was level with the last defender.
The decision did not matter in the end, though, as Wolfsburg were unable to find a late equaliser.
If anything, Bayern came closest to scoring, with Robben grazing the crossbar in the 90th minute before Muller flicked wide of the goal in stoppage time.
Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich: A
The Dutch winger started the season in style, setting up one goal and scoring another. He could have had another assist, but Rode's late goal was disallowed for offside.
Robben is as integral a part of Bayern's attack as ever. Following a fine World Cup with Holland, he will be hoping to replicate this performance consistently this season as Bayern go for a third straight league title.
Bayern Munich, Overall: B
Bayern dominated much of the match, enjoying long spells of possession and controlling the flow of play. Goals on either side of half-time were just rewards for that dominance, but Wolfsburg got back into the game via Olic's fine strike.
For some time after that goal, Wolfsburg looked capable of scoring an equaliser and stealing a result. That would have been a poor result for Bayern, who expect to win every time out—especially at home.
In the end, though, Guardiola's side held on and will be pleased with the three points. As Bleacher Report columnist Clark Whitney noted, Bayern's 3-4-3 formation showed promise:
(Quotes via Bundesliga.com)
Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller:
We (Bayern's World Cup winners) tried to play like we did in the final. It wasn't that much different—there was plenty of tension—but I think the best team won tonight. We pulled together and managed to grit our teeth for the last ten minutes. You have to do that sometimes.
Bayern Munich forward Arjen Robben:
Opening matches are always a bit strange. We didn't have much preparation because of the World Cup, not much training and lots of injuries, but we shouldn't be making excuses. The three points are the most important thing. Big compliment to the lads, especially young (Gianluca) Gaudino. I'm very proud of him.
Wolfsburg forward Ivica Olic:
To be honest I think we started well and for half an hour Bayern didn't have any of the game, but then we sat back a bit before they scored. In the second half we had a good few chances and I was delighted to see mine go in, but at the end of the day we couldn't quite pull it off. Obviously I had a bit of luck with the crossbar, but it was a nice goal.
|Bayern Munich Player Ratings|
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|Wolfsburg Player Ratings|
|Kevin De Bruyne|
|Ratings via WhoScored.com|
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