Bayern München opened their new Bundesliga campaign with a comfortable win against neighbors Greuther Fürth. Newly promoted Fürth did well to hold off Bayern in the first half but Heynckes’ men slowly but surely chipped away at the green and white wall until the result became a formality.
Lineups and Tactics
Injuries to Can, Alaba and Gomez as well as a still recovering Schweinsteiger meant Heynckes had to shuffle his deck a bit. All three of their big summer signings started against Fürth. Badstuber was shifted out to left back, Shaqiri started behind Mandzukic and Robben out on the left in place of Ribery. Badstuber has been Bayern’s weak point when played on the left but against a team most likely defending for much of the match it was a calculated risk.
Büskens too made three changes to his team after their disappointing exit from the German Cup midweek. Schmidtgal, Klaus and Fall were all given the start with Mikkelsen Asamoah and Nöthe all sitting. 4-2-3-1 was the order of the day for both sides, the big question obviously being how Fürth could contain all of Bayern’s attacking outlets. As it turned out, they did so quite effectively, at least for parts of the match.
The Match & Analysis
To their credit, Fürth did really well for much of the first half. Robben admitted after the match how little space Fürth gave them in the first half. As a whole, Bayern struggled to find the right passes or the space to get in behind Fürth’s defense in the opening half hour in particular which made for a pretty uneventful first half but it must have surely been seen as a success by Büskens. Bayern obviously had the majority of the possession but most of it was in their own half. Boateng and Dante had a combined 139 touches in the first half alone. Robben and Müller seldom got a hold of the ball and could do little in one-on-one situations. Robben was not helped by the fact that in Badstuber he did not have a player to combine with or make overlapping runs. They struggled with similar problems in their opening game against Borussia Mönchengladbach last year and hoped history wouldn’t repeat itself again this time.
Of course, Bayern’s inability in attack meant that Fürth were doing something right. And they did. Prib and Fürstner worked overtime trying to win the ball back and helping out their backline. Fulbacks Nehrig and Schmidgal played a lot more conservatively than they did all year long in the 2. Bundesliga last year and were helped by Klaus and Sararer. Collectively, they only allowed Müller, Shaqiri and Robben to complete 29 passes in the first 45 minute and limited Mandzukic to just 16 touches on the ball. Fürth’s back four won a combined 32 challenges against Bayern and were off to a great start in their first ever outing in the Bundesliga. Could they keep that up for the rest of the match was the question.
Fortunately for Bayern a scrappy goal at the end of the first half broke the game open for them. Dante had a header blocked off the line in the 43rd minute off a Shaqiri corner and Mavraj unluckily deflected the ball into Müller’s path for an easy tap in. The goal gave Bayern more confidence and started unsettling Fürth a bit. They were having a harder time keeping their shape and allowed Robben to get in behind before the hour mark, his shot saved by Grün but Mandzukic was there to head in the rebound. Because Büsken’s strategy was seemingly hinged on them defending they really had no response to Bayern’s goals other than to keep out any more.
Another thing that helped Bayern in the second half was Shaqiri’s movement, particularly his runs out wide. In the first half he was very disciplined with his positioning but stayed very centrally where he could not affect the game much. Because of Müller and Robben’s difficulties Heynckes may have encouraged him to drift further out wide where he is most comfortable. Sure enough, more of his plays came from wider areas and even nearly set up Robben for Bayern’s third in the 70th minute after a great run down the left. Shaqiri’s move to the left, along with Müller coming into the middle and Robben back to the right, seemed to further unsettle an already tiring Fürth. Not long after Bayern added their third after Robben again switched flanks and delivered a cross for Mandzukic but was deflected by Kleine past Grün. Perhaps unfortunate again but Bayern had been piling on the pressure for the past 20 minutes and a goal was just a matter of time.
The lead gave Heynckes some room to rotate and rest some players. Schweinsteiger was brought on for Shaqiri and Pizarro got a run out replacing Mandzukic. Schweinsteiger’s recurring injuries have been a problem for the club but this seemed like the ideal opportunity to get him back up to speed. The central midfielder nearly scored as well in the 90th minute but his attempted lob went a bit high. Before that an enthusiastic Robben created another fine opportunity for Pizarro. The Peruvian’s turn was good but his shot went just wide. Bayern were enjoying themselves at the end and when that’s the case, it usually spells problems for the opponent.
Bayern got the start they wanted and can be content with their performance in the end considering the changes and the absences of many key players. Heynckes did well to rectify his initial lineup and move the players around in the second half. They were persistent and took the few opportunities they had early well. More importantly, their new signings all impressed again. Dante was a rock in defense and commandeered the backline as though he had been playing there for years. Shaqiri was lively again and shows the kind of flexibility often lacking with Robben and Ribery.
Büskens can be proud of his team for their first half performance but once Bayern scored there was little he could do to get back into the game. Although his initial formation made sense in keeping Bayern at bay he lacked an alternative to get something more out of the game. His substitutions did little to affect the game. Next up is an away trip to Mainz on Friday.
Header courtesy of welt.de & DPA
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