Champions League - Bayern begin with a win
Bayern Munich continued their winning ways with a comprehensive 2-0 win at Villarreal to kick off their Champions League run in style.
And with Manchester City and Napoli battling to a 1-1 draw elsewhere in Group A – regarded by many as the ‘group of death’ this season – the German giants have an early advantage of at least two points over the rest of the pool.
While the home side started off energetically enough, Bayern were set up well enough to keep them in check for the entire first half and found their way in front after just seven minutes.
Philipp Lahm and Franck Ribery, a dangerous duo on the left for the Bavarians during their recent run of emphatic form, showed just what they are capable of creating and Ribery’s cut-back picked out Kroos perfectly to slam home the opening goal.
Mario Gomez, already putting the European scene on notice with eight goals in the opening weeks of the season, struggled to transition immediately into his recent form, triggering the offside flag on several occasions.
And despite finding themselves stifled in midfield for large portions, Villarreal were able to rattle their opponents with the occasional quick attack, such as Giuseppe Rossi’s half-volley on 21 minutes from Bruno’s delightful raking ball forward which Manuel Neuer had to push around the post.
Bayern were rocked a little halfway through the first period when defender Daniel van Buyten pulled up and had to be replaced by Rafinha, with Jerome Boateng moving into the middle to partner Holger Badstuber.
And despite Munich’s superior possession granting further chances for Gomez and Thomas Mueller, Mario almost sent the sides into the break level when captain Marcos Senna’s free-kick delivery into the box fell at his feet, only for Neuer to save brilliantly with his legs from close range.
Both sides made changes at the break, with the visibly tired and struggling Gomez replaced by last season’s Bundesliga 2 leading scorer Nils Petersen.
Villarreal, meanwhile, brought off Senna and gave his spot in midfield – and the armband – to Cani for a more dynamic and creative threat.
To an extent, it worked for the home side, though Bayern continued to have the best chances, including one for Petersen himself just after the hour following an uncharacteristic giveaway from Mateo Musacchio.
The errors at the back continued and Kroos was left alone to receive a low cross on 69, only to be denied a brace by the upright though Lopez had the near post well covered.
The resistance was ended 14 minutes from time when a free-kick delivery into the hosts’ box was cleared only as far as Rafinha on the right flank, who beat his man majestically and finished the match off.
Ribery, a creative menace to the Spaniards as he has been in almost all of Bayern’s other six consecutive wins, could easily have had a second assist for Munich’s third in the closing minutes when his slick ball unlocked the defence and allowed Muller to fire over from close range.
Neuer, signed from Schalke in the summer amidst plenty of controversy, has now exceeded 650 minutes since he last conceded as the Bavarian outfit made it seven wins and seven clean sheets in a row.