Bayern open Bundesliga season with commanding win over Hamburg

Bayern Munich began the defense of its Bundesliga crown with a comprehensive 5-0 win over hapless Hamburg at Allianz Arena on Friday night.

Mehdi Benatia struck in the first-half before Robert Lewandowski capitalized on a mistake in the Hamburg defense to open his account for the season. The floodgates then swung open — Thomas Muller headed in on 68 minutes and finished four minutes later to compound HSV’s woes on the back of a series of internal problems this week. Douglas Costa smashed in a late winner to round off a superb performance from the newcomer.

Having won the league championship by eight points last term — albeit more when the title was secured — Bayern and Josep Guardiola are expected to dot the i’s and cross the t’s and secure the 26th league crown in the club’s history.

After extra renovation work, the 70,000 crowd in Munich were treated to a litany of performers before the main course commenced. However, Bayern’s most vocal supporters in the South Stand used the opportunity to hammer home their displeasure at potential Monday night kickoffs in the Bundesliga.

But soon — after a live band and the German National Anthem — the 53rd Bundesliga season was underway, the start of a 10-month slog to see who will be crowned champions of Germany.

Despite conceding most of the possession to Bayern, Hamburg appeared more assured about their strategy and closed down players at every opportunity. At the other end, Lewis Holtby was looking to play a percentage game on any of the knockdowns from the front players. In the third minute, his control and volley didn’t force Manuel Neuer to break much sweat despite his shot being on target.

BUNDESLIGA PLAYERS TO WATCH

Munich is a place with horrific memories for Hamburg fans. The Northern Germans haven’t won at Bayern since 2007, and lost 8-0 and 9-2 in their last two visits. Bruno Labbadia was busy on the training pitch this week to rectify the mistakes of their shock DFB Pokal defeat to fourth-tier Carl-Zeiss Jena.

Collectively, Hamburg showed signs of improvement, but individual mistakes were still present. David Alaba’s diagonal cross should have been cut out before it reached Arjen Robben whose header was a few meters over.

On 21 minutes, Philipp Lahm linked with Robert Lewandowski and the Polish striker headed over the crossbar. But five minutes later, Hamburg’s inability to deal with aerial situations was punished — Xabi Alonso’s free-kick converted by an unmarked Benatia, his last touch coming off his shoulder.

This was Bayern’s best period of a slack first 45 minutes when Guardiola looked frustrated at his side’s play from the back. Muller should have added a second on the half hour mark before Jerome Boateng took matters into his own hands and stung the palms of Rene Adler with a rasping, 40-yard drive.

After the interval, Alaba forced Adler into a fine save from a free-kick. However, without the usual verve and tempo in their play, Bayern relied on the long-ball to cause chaos in the opposition defense.

Lewandowski pounced on exactly that kind of service on 52 minutes. The Polish striker stroked the ball in from 10 yards after Müller had outmuscled left back Matthias Ostrzolek. Furious that the goal was given, Hamburg seemed to lose the plot slightly. Challenges were mistimed; risky passes caused the ball to be back in Bayern’s hands and there was little effort to continue the efforts of the first-half when Hamburg looked solid.

Arturo Vidal, on his home debut, should have added a fourth on 71 minutes, rifling his half-volley into the advertising boards to the confusion of the home fans who thought it nestled in the back of the net. But about 20 seconds later, Hamburg was four down. Muller sprinted clear of the Hamburg defense, rounded Adler and slotted home his second of the evening.

Hamburg protested to the match officials incessantly, and even with Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Ivica Olic coming off the bench, Labbadia’s men was short of quality. Brazilian winger Costa capped off an impressive league debut, shutting to the inside and curling the ball home on 85 minutes to add some gloss to the win.