Villarreal 0 – 2 Bayern Munich – Routine win for Bayern as they exploit Villarreal’s lack of width

Bayern have lost 4 of their last 5 away matches to Spanish opponents since eliminating Real Madrid in their successful 2001 run to the final but that did not deter what turned out to be a routine win against Villarreal in their opening match of the group stage. A goal in each half from Kroos and Rafinha ensured that Bayern continued their impressive start to the season season, winning their 7th consecutive match in all competitions, keeping a clean sheet in each.

Villarreal on the other hand have had opposite fortunes, winning just one of their first four matches of the season prior to this game.  Coach Juan Caros Garrido picked a more defensive minded line up, leaving out Cani and having to do without one of their primary playmakers, Valero.  Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes too made some changes and surprised a few people by leaving out one of their better performers this season in Luiz Gustavo, instead opting for Tymoshchuk.  He also fielded van Buyten alongside Badstuber in the back, pushing his first choice center back Jerome Boateng out to the right, a move that many thought would be detrimental against the quick and technical Nilmar and Rossi.

Formations and key movements.

 Passive Villarreal give Bayern the edge

As mentioned above, the usually attack minded Villarreal approached this match rather conservatively. Usually aggressive from the beginning, Villarreal chose to sit back and were all too willing to allow Bayern the possession, hoping instead to the catch them on the counter.  Villarreal’s midfield consisted of three defensive minded players in Senna, Marchena and Soriano so there was an invariable gap between midfield and attack, making it difficult to get around Bayern’s central midfielders and for Nilmar and Rossi to receive a consistent stream of service.  Approaching the match like an away fixture might not have been the best decision against players as dangerous as Müller and Ribery and they were made to pay for it just 7 minutes into the match.  Ribery made a trademark run down the left before spotting Kroos in the middle who redirected the pass right past Lopez to give Bayern the lead.  It was not the last time Bayern would beat Villarreal out wide.

From a tactical perspective, Bayern do not play much through the middle and instead like to focus the bulk of their attacks out wide. With players like Robben, Müller and Ribery few can blame them, even if it makes their game a bit predictable.  Therefore every time Bayern had the ball they looked for Müller on the right or Ribery on the left.  The French winger was especially involved and seems to have rediscovered his best form this season. Garrido’s decision to have his side absorb rather than expend pressure put them on the back foot throughout the half and made it easy for Ribery to always have a go at Gaspar and Zapata.  Villarreal were compact in the center though and handled Gomez well, or rather, Bayern’s tendency to direct all their attacks towards their target man once they receive the ball out wide was always met successfully with the offside trap.  We would later find out that Gomez struggled with an injury and that might explain his sluggish performance in the first half.

As the half progressed and Villarreal saw how vulnerable Bayern were dealing with their quick attackers they were more willing to push forward.  Early in the half a ball over the top caught Van Buyten out and Rossi was clear on goal, denied only by a point blank save from Neuer. Fortunately for Bayern, Rafinha replaced the slow Van Buyten  on 23 minutes after what looked like a hamstring injury.  The quicker Boateng now played in the center but Villarreal were still looking to make Bayern’s central defenders their primary target.  Villarreal became a bit more comfortable towards the end of the half and Gaspar forced a save from Neuer right before the break. It was Bayern went into the break happier though, having more of the ball and looking quite comfortable despite the few nervous moments at the back.  They looked more stable after Van Buyten walked off and kept the composure they have shown in the league this season.

Villarreal’s flanks an open hunting ground for Bayern

Inter Milan lost against Schalke in last year’s quarterfinals under similar circumstances. The Italians packed the midfield and neglected their wide areas, which Schalke were all too happy to use.  Instead of adjusting at half-time, Garrido made just one change, bringing on the more offensive Cani for Senna to chase the game more effectively and provide a link between midfield and attack.  Heynckes meanwhile took off the injured Gomez for Petersen and curiously enough, it was the substitute who had the first two chances of the second half but could not keep his composure in front of goal.

Villarreal were now more focused on getting the equalizer and went forward in numbers and by doing so risked conceding another goal. Without their third man in the middle, Villarreal were also more open in the center of the pitch and Bayern continued to take advantage.  Petersen again found an opportunity to score after receiving a pass from Schweinsteiger, cutting past Zapata, and curling a shot to the far right corner, forcing a save from Lopez.  Schweinsteiger himself had a go at it soon after from long range but failed to beat Lopez.  As the first half indicated, Villarreal’s narrow midfield left the flanks isolated, essentially becoming free highways for Lahm and Rafinha to operate.  Bayern found it easy to use those wide areas to create further goal-scoring chance and they did just that on 76 minutes.  Playing as high as a wing forward, Rafinha collected the ball on the right, nutmegged Soriano and slotted the ball in the net.  It was the final nail in the coffin of a very languid Villarreal.  Heynckes brought on Gustavo for Kroos to close out the match and a very one-sided second half.

 Final Verdict

Bayern may not play with the dazzle and creativity they did under Van Gaal but the side is more balanced now and seems on its way to cutting out their defensive mishaps.  Against Villarreal, they put in a disciplined performance and were rarely troubled.  Under Heynckes, Bayern players are more positionally disciplined than they were last year and are less impulsive in their decision-making. Their near perfect start to the season continues and it bodes well for the rest of their Champions League campaign.  Villarreal on the other hand are yet to play at their best this season and proved that the 5-0 loss to Barcelona on the opening day of the league was not just an indication of their opponent’s superiority but of their early season deficiencies.  Home matches in the Champions League are usually where a team picks up the bulk of their points if they want to progress from the group and with a loss here Villarreal have made it that much harder for themselves.

Man of the Match 

Toni Kroos –  Franck Ribery makes a strong claim as well but Kroos deputized well in Müller’s position.  The midfielder took his chance well on the first goal and set up Rafinha for the second. He completed 60% of his tackles and balanced between attack and defense quite well.  Heynckes has recently put pressure on Kroos to step up his game and become more of a goal threat and this performance was indicative of a step in the right direction.

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari


  1. Only commenting on choice of words. Agree that Olic is a workhorse, and combines well up front. Can’t wait to see both him and Robben back in the line-up.

  2. Yes, offer some grit, attitude and mobility, something he has in spades. Would love to see him partnered with Müller up front again sometime in the future.

  3. Agree, and think with every game you have seen them play since those horrid first two matches, that is exactly what is transpiring, at a min, a trip to the semi’s.

  4. Thanks. If Bayern can pull this kind of result off against those three sides then I think they are the real deal this year.

  5. Yea he is still injured unfortunately. Would be a lovely option to have for the CL this season. Remains to be seen how he recovers from his injury though.

  6. I think as things stand they have a very good shot at getting to the semi finals, provided they avoid a couple of teams on their way.

  7. Yea, I’m still scratching my head over what Garrido thought, any ideas? Was he simply nervous about getting a result or his form so far this season so he wanted to avoid another big loss?

  8. I think Garrido lost the plot here more than anything. Seems like he did not even bother analyzing how Bayern play. Classic example of a tactical mismatch.

  9. Great analysis as always. Only watched the first-half, but I was surprised that Villarreal were set-up more defensive than usual with G.Rossi and Nilmar often isolated. They linked-up the best they could, but as you pointed out – lack of width was clear to see. Such a difference from last year which is quite disappointing.

    As for Bayern, another clean sheet and looking solid defensively under Heynckes. Looking forward to how they perform against Schalke, Leverkusen then Man.City.

  10. Is Olic injured? Because Olic could have come on instead to give him the confidence he needs, which a Champions League game can more than give

  11. So they don’t only win against “easy” teams. Had no doubt about it, Heynckes is an expert in making out of defensive weak sides strong ones. That’s what he came for and he is achieving it.
    Ribery is back at what he used to be, after hearing in the pre-season that he has no guaranteed place in the line-up and needs to work as everyone else. Funny that some people/press said that this episode was a sign of trouble to come with the stars in the team.
    Kroos has returned too! He is Jupp’s next football son, just like Vidal who is now a world-class player.

    Wish the old and red faced man his second Champions League title. He deserves it for his excellent work in the last years and the tough times he had before covering for Klinsmann.
    He can leave us the league in exchange. We will be all happy!

  12. Nice writeup and summary of a disappointing evening for us. Without Borja Valero it was always going to be a struggle, but you nicely summarize how our tactics played straight into Bayern’s hands.
    With no width going forward and no linkup with anyone in an attacking frame of mind for large portions of the game, it wasn’t pretty.

  13. I agree that Villareal certainly seemed to take the wrong road in facing Bayern Munich, especially at El Madrigal. Bayern Munich were rampant, although the lack of finishing some of their many chances needs to be rectified if they’re going to make a deep run in the CL. That being said, I really liked the insertion of Tymoschuck in the starting lineup. Not that I think he’s necessarily a better player than Gustavo, but he deserved a CL start and his experience and calm on the ball will be needed if Bayern are to make deep runs in the Pokal and CL. Good effort by Bayern except for some of the finishing — at times they reminded me of the Arsenal team of a few years back (and Dortmund on Tuesday) in that they seemed to want to walk the ball into the net instead of shooting from distance.

  14. Cris, Didn’t see the match due to work, but you clearly summed it up extremely well. Waiting to see highlights now after dinner. I wouldn’t say Bayern started the season impressively in the first two matches, but have they surely improved since. I do find it odd that Villareal opted not to play to Bayern’s weeknesss by playing conservatively and not attacking them.

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