Bayern Munich held off a strong fight back from Borussia Monchengladbach to ensure that Pep Guardiola’s first game in charge in the Bundesliga ended with three points. There was plenty of the style familiar both with Bayern and Guardiola’s Barcelona as the hosts established a 2-0 lead at the Allianz Arena after just 16 minutes through Arjen Robben and Mario Mandzukic.
Monchengladbach played their part in an entertaining opening day contest, though, and pulled one back before half-time courtesy of a Dante own goal. With the visitors pushing for an equalizer, Bayern were incredibly given two penalties in immediate succession midway through the second half, both as the result of handballs from Alvaro Dominguez. And, while the first from Muller was saved, David Alaba tucked home the second to secure the points with a 3-1 win.
With Thiago Alcantara ill, Mario Gotze not yet fit and Jan Kirchoff only given a place on the bench, there were now new arrivals in the Bayern starting lineup. Still, those on display showed plenty of the ability that saw them claim an unprecedented treble last season. Franck Ribery, in particular was almost unplayable at times, while the interchange of positions going forward bewildered Monchengladbach. But Guardiola’s decision to just have Bastian Schweinsteiger as a deep-lying midfielder left the Bavarians worryingly open at the other end and kept the match interesting until late on.
It had taken just 12 minutes of the new season for the champions to get off the mark, although the goal owed much to opposition goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. First the young Germany international produced a poor clearance that Bayern quickly pounced upon with Ribery playing a delightful ball over the top of the defense and, with ter Stegen caught off his line, Robben was just able to poke the ball into the net.
Ter Stegen, linked to Barcelona during the summer, did not cover himself in glory as Bayern doubled their lead just four minutes later. Robben was this time the creator with an in-swinging free-kick that Ribery got a touch to at the near post. The effort should have been held by the Monchengladbach stopper, but instead he spilled it straight to Mandzukic who gladly snapped up the chance with a simple finish.
The game could well have been put beyond doubt had Mandzukic not put a relatively straightforward headed chance wide of the post. Instead, while Bayern were imperious going forward, they were far from impervious at the other end, and on three occasions in the opening 45 minutes the visitors exposed Bayern on the break.
Raffael was the beneficiary of two of the opportunities, but the Brazilian attacking midfielder was unable to take advantage of either, first firing poorly wide of the near post before later shooting straight at Manuel Neuer. Perhaps the best chance fell the way of new signing Max Kruse. He, too, shot too close to Neuer from just six yards out, although it would be wrong to detract from the excellent reflexes of Germany’s number one.
Sure enough Bayern’s defense was undone five minutes before the interval with a goal almost entirely of their own making. A low cross was heading straight into the arms of Neuer but, with communication apparently lacking, Dante stretched to try and get there first and turns it into his own net.
Monchengladbach applied plenty of pressure at the start of the second half too as they looked to be the first side to prevent Bayern Munich taking maximum points at home in 2013. Twice the always lively Kruse came close to an equalizer but saw efforts denied, the second in fine fashion by Neuer at full stretch. The game became increasingly end-to-end as the half progressed and Bayern went close to a goal when Toni Kroos struck the bottom of a post with a side-footed effort from just outside the box.
But with just over 20 minutes remaining Lucien Favre’s side’s resistance was ended in an incredible couple of minutes of action. Bayern thought they were poised to secure the three points when Thomas Muller touched the ball from close range onto the unmoved hand of Dominguez and a penalty was awarded. Yet, ter Stegen produced an outstanding save, only to see it count for nothing when Dominguez immediately committed a far more blatant handball to give Bayern another chance from the spot. This time Alaba made no mistake as Guardiola started impressively, but still with plenty of work to do to repeat the dominance of last season.