For the first 90 minutes of the new Bundesliga season, the 2013-14 version of Bayern Munich was alive and well. Dominant, sometimes oppressive in their control, the reigning German champions seemed a step better than visiting Wolfsburg, yet with one spectacularly flubbed chance late in the second half, the Wolves had a an opportunity to steal a shock point. When woodwork and a shanked rebound intervened, Bayern was left with the 2-1 win and an unduly close call.
As with so many nights before, the star man was Arjen Robben, whose dismantling of Wolfsburg left back Ricardo Rodríguez created the opening goal for Thomas Müller in the 37th minute. Just over a minute into the second half, Robben doubled that lead, converting from the middle of the penalty area for the game’s winning goal. Near full-time the cross bar prevented Robben from adding a second, but the damage had already been done.
Still, that damage nearly proved too little, starting with Ivica Olic’s response to Robben. Cutting across the field, just inside the penalty area in the 52nd minute, Olic launched a looping, left-footed shot over Manuel Neuer – a spectacular conversion that pulled Wolfsburg within one with its second shot on target. With Wolfsburg able to maintain their share of the ball (finishing the match with 45 pct. possession), Bayern looked vulnerable.
That vulnerability set the stage for the match’s defining moment, an unfortunate one for Wolfsburg’s Junior Malanda. Graced on goal by a beautiful cross, the Belgian midfielder put his initial shot off the Neuer and onto the crossbar. The follow-up has set Twitter ablaze:
The would-be equalizer was a wakeup call for Bayern, who nearly found insurance though Robben, Müller, Sebastian Rode and Juan Bernat in the match’s final moments. Even without that insurance, Bayern had enough to secure its opening game win.
With only 55 percent possession, and putting only three shots on target (to Wolfsburg’s four), there were aspects of the opener that were much different from Bayern’s oppressing performances we saw during year one under Pep Guardiola. The scoreline, and how it transpired, was very familiar.
Held early, Bayern broke through, looked in control, but ultimately left the door open. Were it not for Malanda’s vine-worthy miss, Wolfsburg may have claimed an early, eye-opening result.