Bayern Munich won the Audi Cup for the third time in four attempts thanks to Robert Lewandowski’s late goal to deliver a 1-0 victory over Real Madrid in the final. After beating AC Milan in Tuesday’s semifinal, Bayern dominated a final that was admittedly short on excitement, but it took until the 88th minute to get the breakthrough, when Lewandowski supplied a simple finish to a superb Douglas Costa free-kick.
While far from the most significant trophy Bayern hope to get their hands on this season, it will be a welcome win for coach Pep Guardiola and his squad after a weekend defeat in the DFL-Supercup to Wolfsburg. Doubtless the biggest encouragement Guardiola will take from his side’s two wins, though, is the performance of one of his major summer signings. With Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben sidelined through injury, Costa again showed that he can add a vital injection of pace and creativity, which Bayern so dearly lacked in the wing-duo’s absence last season. And it was the Brazilian who not only helped provide the decisive goal, but also many of the final’s more memorable moments.
The final was played on an Allianz Arena pitch showing signs of wear and with the players , despite six changes from Real Madrid and five from Bayern, also displaying the symptoms of such a hectic Audi Cup schedule. The contest was played at a ponderous pace and unsurprisingly lacking the intensity befitting a meeting of two of Europe’s most successful ever clubs.
Still, after former Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos went close with an early trademark strike from outside the area, it was the Bavarians who showed the greater impetus to take control. Philipp Lahm should have found the net when following up David Alaba’s vicious drive, while Thomas Muller so nearly did in unexpected circumstances when his effort slammed into the midriff of Sergio Ramos and wrong-footed Keylor Navas in the Madrid goal before bouncing off the post.
Just as in the first half of Bayern’s win against AC Milan, though, it was Costa who really caught the eye for the Bundesliga champions. The recent arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk had already seen a deflected effort cleared off the line when he turned Nacho with ease down the left before picking out Mario Gotze in the middle, who might have done better with a shot that Navas was able to palm away.
Costa laid an even better chance on just past the hour mark. Again getting in behind down the left, this time the 24-year-old supplied a tantalizing pass across the six-yard box that Robert Lewandowski looked certain to convert in the middle only to somehow side-foot wide of the gaping target. Lewandowski arrived as one of four half-time substitutes, and predictably more were to follow throughout the second half. Indeed, Real Madrid were to finish the match with just two outfield players who began it.
However, against a Madrid side missing Gareth Bale from their semifinal victory over Tottenham and with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema still back at home, the pattern of Bayern’s dominance of possession continued. Mehdi Benatia and Thomas Muller both had opportunities with their head, while Madrid’s attacking forays continued to be limited to long-range efforts from Kroos. And Bayern’s pressure final paid off less than three minutes before penalties were set to intervene.
Predictably it was Costa who played a major part in the only goal, supplying a superb in-swinging cross from a free-kick out on the left from which Lewandowski this time couldn’t fail to turn into the net on the volley from just a couple of yards out.