Bundesliga season opened today with a stellar match at Allianz Arena in Munich. Steve McClaren became the first English manager in Bundesliga history as his Wolfsburg side paid a visit to perennial power Bayern Munich.
With the announcement of the team sheet one unexpected omission stood out. Wolfsburg’s summer signing, German International Arne Friedrich was not in the team or on the subs bench, unable to go Friedrich was left out with a minor injury. Bayern were also missing two key players with both Olic and Arjen Robben injured.
From the onset the Bayern chemistry was evident as the reigning champions mounted threatening attack after attack in the opening minutes, and dominated the ball. McClaren appeared to have sent Wolfsburg out to weather the early storm as they sat back absorbing the pressure.
In the 9th minute World Cup Golden Boot winner Thomas Muller announced his intentions by combining on a give and go with Kroos as he sped through the top of the area from right to left, Kroos return pass was there and Muller touched it over the last defender though as it seemed to suspend in the air he was rapidly running out of space, no shot was possible, the angle too sharp, the ball still falling in front of him as he ran away from the goal. What looked impossible was not, not for Muller. He had yet to control the ball as his first touch had lofted it over the defender yet as he galloped in an attempt to latch onto it, with a single glance to the net and then back to the ball Muller took it in stride, and on the volley with his “weaker” left foot from an obscene angle he scored the opening goal of the season with what the Spanish language broadcasters could only label a GOALASOOOOOOOO!!!
This is the goal of the season so far of course it was the first but what a goal it was, simply fantastic. From the reverse angle the keeper was in the correct position, the defenders all over him yet in a moment of sheer genius Muller had struck home slamming it low into the far corner, an unstoppable goal. The sellout crowd at Allianz erupted in celebration as Muller was mobbed by his shocked teammate’s smiles all around.
McClaren’s plan to let Bayern attack early had been undone by the 20 year old striker in a moment of class and skill. For the next 20 minutes Bayern would create chance after chance yet the final ball would miss the mark. The Bayern attack was diverse with Van Buyten sending some excellent long diagonal balls to Ribery on the left flank, complemented by some outstanding attacking runs through the middle of Wolfsburg’s defense. Bayern were attacking the position Friedrich should have been in. As the half closed in was total domination for Bayern as Wolfsburg looked overmatched but somehow they managed not concede a killer second.
As the second half opened only one team was on the pitch, Bayern stood alone for 5 minutes waiting for Wolfsburg to finally appear, and once they did McClaren was not with them. After another 3 minutes he appeared from the tunnel to a jeering crowd, a bit of gamesmanship on his part to disrupt Bayern I suspect. With a wave to the crowd and a smile McClaren finally reached the technical area and the second half began.
Whatever he said at the half or if it was the gamesmanship it worked, a different Wolfsburg team emerged and within the first 4 minutes they had created three clear chances. On the front foot now Dzeko looked ever present and extremely dangerous as he tested Butt time and time again. The pressure got to Butt with a poor clearance and his kick save narrowly preserved Bayern’s now tenuous lead. Off the ensuing corner it was Dzeko who rose above the crowd in the box and from 10 meters he sent a perfect rocketing header into the top corner. With the goal Bayern looked nervy as McClaren jumped for joy in his Wolfsburg track suit looking very sporty and now very motivated.
From the 55th to the 65th minutes Wolfsburg looked to impose their will on Bayern with a series of physical challenges which resulted in three yellow cards two for Wolfsburg and one for Bayern. Barzagli’s yellow card in the 65th minute seemed to reawaken Bayern and the match was on, end to end with both sides went striving for a go ahead goal. Dzeko would force two more saves from Butt and Wolfsburg looked very good indeed. Louis van Gaal responded with Pranjic and Gomez on for Bayern in place of Kroos and Klose. The Bundesliga champions began to reassert themselves with rapid ball movement and a series of Ribery runs, just as McClaren seemed to pull Wolfsburg back to assure the away point for his side.
Mandzukic came off for Wolfsburg in the 85th minute and his absence combined with the missing Friedrich would result in disaster for Wolfsburg in stoppage time. As the fourth official held up the stoppage time board it read 2 minutes, and the crowd seemed to take in a collective deep breath. It worked as in a flash Bayern were off on the counter attack streaming down the left was Ribery as he looked up and sent a 50 meter ball to the back post Sebastian Schweinsteiger appeared out of nowhere sliding onto it and tapping it home as he slid over the end line.
Bayern had found two moments of magic, one early and one very late from two magic players Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger, and in doing so they snatched all three points from a deserving McClaren and his Wolfsburg side. As the Bayern players celebrated with the sellout crowd McClaren unleashed a furious salvo at each of his defenders as they left the pitch defeated. The Bundesliga is back for another round and not a moment too soon.
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