Muller, Robben help Bayern open title defense with win over Wolfsburg
Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben help Bayern Munich open title defense with win over Wolfsburg
German striker Thomas Muller scored Bayern's opener vs. Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena on Friday.
Alexander Hassenstein / Bongarts
By Thomas Hautmann FOX Soccer
Bayern Munich beat Wolfsburg 2-1 in Friday's thrilling Bundesliga opener behind goals from Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben. Ivica Olic scored for the visitors, who made sure the home crowd was on the edge of their seats until the final whistle with a spirited performance in the second half.
The defending champions were thoroughly the better side for the opening 45 minutes, and perhaps thought they were in the clear after Robben's quick goal after the restart gave Bayern a 2-0 lead. But Olic's brilliant goal just five minutes later turned the second half into a topsy-turvy affair. The result insured that no defending champion has lost the Bundesliga opener since the league introduced the Friday night fixture in 2002.
Ten minutes from time, Wolves substitute Bernard Malanda Adje had the equalizer on his foot but somehow managed to hit his own rebound from a couple of feet out just wide of Manuel Neuer's post. Newcomer Sebastian Rode then thought he had sealed Bayern's victory with a debut goal in the 84th, but it was ruled out for a curious offside call on Muller, who never touched the ball.
The worry that Bayern would start out slow because of a shortened preseason for many of its World Cup stars and the absence of many key players was quickly debunked. Though the first 20 minutes were forgettable as neither side found a foot in the game, Bayern quickly became stronger, particularly over Robben's right side.
After a trio of first-half chances for Robert Lewandowski went begging -- last season's golden boot winner did not enjoy his finest game -- the excellent Robben supplied Bayern's opener in the 37th minute with a wonderful assist to Muller. Robben twisted Luiz Gustavo into a pretzel with a masterful cut towards to the goal line, then drove a low ball into the area, where Muller stuck out his foot and steered the ball into the far corner of the net.
Most folks hadn't returned to their seats from the halftime break when Bayern extended their lead. Again it was Robben who started the move, pick-pocketing Josuha Guilavogui in midfield and starting the counter-attack. Muller and Lewandowski combined and played it back through to Robben, who ran at Wolfsburg keeper Max Gruen, took his time, and beat him with his preferred left foot.
Based off the first 50 minutes, you would have thought Wolfsburg were cooked, but Olic brought the visitors right back in the match with an early goal of the season candidate. The former Bayern man struck a beautiful curler from the right edge of the box that ricocheted off the crossbar and in. Neuer had no chance, but the Germany keeper had previously surrendered posession carelessly with a poor pass to Juan Bernat.
Unlike the first half, it was now a palpable match with great chances for both sides.
Lewandowski had the perfect opportunity to restore Bayern's two-goal cushion when he was played free by David Alaba, but the Pole's cheeky chip attempt over Gruen was too low. Minutes later, Bernat bailed out his goalkeeper with a strong challenge on Kevin De Bruyne, who was free on goal after Neuer ran past the ball well outside his area.
Wolfsburg kept on coming, and in the 80th minute should have found their second were it not for an unbelievable miss by Malanda. On the receiving end of a perfect cross into the box, Malanda's effort was deflected onto the bar by Neuer and landed right back into the Belgian's path. One yard away from the empty net, Malanda failed to get it on target.
It was an epic miss that robbed Wolfsburg of their first point in Munich since December 2001, and only their second ever in 20 tries.
In the final minutes, Bayern had two more chances to score a third, but once were denied by the referees and once by the post. Rode had his debut goal ruled out on a tough offside call on Muller, who the linesman felt had obstructed Gruen's view. In the final minute, Robben hit the bar with another curling effort.
Bayern manager Josep Guardiola wlll be satisfied with the result after expressing concern over Bayern's depleted roster before the the match. The former Barcelona boss surprisingly handed 17-year-old Gianluca Gaudino his Bundesliga debut. He started next to Alaba in midfield as Philipp Lahm filled in at right back for the suspended Jerome Boateng. Holger Badstuber made his Bundesliga return since his first of two ACL tears in Dec. 2012.