Bayern Munich 2 – 0 Manchester City – Nervous start but Bayern’s dominance continues

Two first half goals from Mario Gomez insured that Bayern’s spotless start to the season continued. After a competitive opening half hour Bayern slowly took control of the game and never looked back. Jupp Heynckes’s men are now comfortably sitting atop their group and have won 11 of their 12 matches in all competitions this season, keeping a clean sheet in 11 of them. Heynckes had to do without Badstuber, who succumbed to the flu prior to the match, and fielded former Manchester City player Jerome Boateng in his place. He also started Gustavo instead of Tymoshchuk but the rest of the team remained the same after their win against Leverkusen over the weekend.

Roberto Mancini only made one change to the team that beat Everton in the league on Saturday, starting the experienced Kolo Toure in defense instead of Lescott.  City went into the match confident and in sparking form but would that form carry over against a side as experienced as Bayern?

Formations and key movement.

Combative start

At the beginning it looked obvious that Bayern were playing a side like no other they have faced this season. Heynckes said before the match that his defense has yet to be tested but fully expected City to do so. Mancini and his side did just that in the opening thirty minutes. Dzeko had a chance early on after being played through by Richards from the right but failed to put enough power behind the shot to trouble Neuer. Bayern were on the backfoot for a change, something they had not been accustomed this season. Aguero, starting just behind Dzeko, often drifted out wide to the left to take on the slower Van Buyten and Bayern failed to get their play on the right going. Silva and Nasri also did well to support the attack while Dzeko always dropped off his markers to open the channels. There were also two penalty claims early on caused by City’s relentless attacks but referee Kassai decided otherwise.

Bayern were uncharacteristically careless in possession in the first half, handing the ball over to City rather easily out of the back but remained disciplined enough defensively to prevent the guests from scoring. They had chances themselves but those came through counter attacks rather than after spells of possession like they have so far this season. For the most part, Bayern were limited to shooting from distance with Kroos, Ribery and Schweinsteiger all having a go inside the first half hour. Overall, they had a difficult time getting past City’s backline and dealing with the pressure exerted by the guests. All that was about to change in the span of seven minutes though as two goals would effectively change and decide the course of the match.

Bayern ease into control

Bayern's average positioning, balanced and positionally disciplined.

A glimpse of Bayern’s threat appeared right before the first goal after a counter attack set Schweinsteiger up alone in front of goal but the midfielder redirected the cross over the bar rather than past Hart. City would not be able to keep out Bayern’s next chance though. Ribery picked up the ball on the left, swiftly cut inside and released a shot. Hart could not hold on but was able to parry away Müller’s rebound. He could not do the same when the ball fell to Gomez the second time around though and just like that Bayern were up after arguably being outplayed. The goal took the air out of City and shifted the momentum in Bayern’s favor. The second goal followed soon after on the stroke of half-time. Kroos floated a free kick into the box that was met by Van Buyten, whose header was saved by Hart,  but once Gomez was again in the right place at the right time and doubled Bayern’s lead. From then on it was smooth sailing for Bayern who never surrendered control again.

City were now deflated and Bayern slowly but surely took full control of the match in the second half. Mancini took out Dzeko in and replaced him with De Jong before the hour mark, hoping to solidify the center of the pitch, which by now they had conceded to Bayern. His idea was sound but it also removed City’s only viable threat up front, making it easier for Bayern’s defense to keep possession. Bayern managed to completely choke out and neutralize Manchester City for the remainder of the game, the same way they have done against all their opponents this season. By cleverly circulating the ball around the pitch and picking their chances when the opportunity presented itself they made City chase for 45 minutes and earned another clean sheet. Gomez nearly completed his hattrick after the forward, who managed to get away from his marker, scrambled Lahm’s cross from the left. Questions about City’s defending had to be asked as Bayern found it increasingly easy to attack down the wings.

City's average positioning, exposed out wide.

One questioned going into the match was how City was going to deal with Ribery and Müller out wide. Relying mostly on their fullbacks for their width, City would have been offering Bayern’s wingers unnecessary amounts of space to operate. Rather than adjusting to that reality, Mancini continued with his game plan and over the course of the game Ribery and Müller began to exploit that space more and more. Nasri and Silva, who came inside quite often, were always checked by Schweinsteiger and Gustavo, giving Lahm and Rafinha more license to go forward and support Bayern’s attacks. Richards and Clichy, who were active going forward in the first half, barely got beyond the halfway line in the second. Bayern’s wide play pushed City back into their own half and further isolated the likes of Silva and Aguero. With little service and their midfield cut off, City were effectively shut out of the game.

Final Verdict

Bayern proved that they have all the credentials necessary to make a deep run in the competition this season. They ironed out their defensive shortcomings from last season and are an overall more balanced side. More assured in their play and confident in possession, Bayern are playing like a side capable of winning the competition. They score when necessary and remain calm afterwards, a surefire sign that the side has evolved to a great degree over the summer.

Manchester City on the other hand again found out the difference between Europe and the Premier League the hard way. Mancini looked out of his element in the second half and his substitutions were questionable. Perhaps compounded by internal conflicts, City did not live up to the potential and ability of its’ squad and will need a win against Villarreal to breathe life back in their Champions League aspirations.

Man of the Match

Franck Ribery. The Frenchman again impressed and was Bayern’s most dangerous player. It took a while for him to get going after Richard’s aggressive start but once he did there was no stopping him. He played a crucial part in Bayern’s first goal and put City on the back foot for most of the match. Although a winger by trade, Ribery has become a fare more rounded player, defending when necessary and playing as Bayern’s de facto playmaker.

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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

7 Comments

  1. Kroos does the simple things in that role so he is easily overlooked but he is important in my opinion for numerous reasons. 1) Good passing keeps the ball circulating 2) He plays deeper than Müller would there and allows Schweinsteiger to play further up when necessary 3) Gives Müller and Ribery the room and options to come inside more.

  2. As a bayern fan I think our threat would be overlooking the first 25minutes. they ran circles around us at times but we remained solid. Very impressed by DvB, Boateng very much. Kroos still makes me ask questions but he’s only 21.

  3. De Jong was the right call but not for Dzeko in my opinion. He was one of City’s best players in the first half and they needed his movement up top for Silva and Aguero to play off. I would have taken off Nasri or Barry.

  4. Great read and just a tiny nitpick: it’s not a hat trick if there’s half-time between – only flawless hat tricks “count” in Germany. 🙂

  5. Mancini’s substitutes were not so questionable… He wanted to bring first De Jong in to strengten the midfield – and Tevez some minutes later. Just that Tevez (remember what Schweinsteiger said in the press conference prior to the Argentinian game…) did not want to go in…

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