On paper, this always looked to be an easy win for Bayern Munich.
Bayern, now unbeaten in 34 straight Bundesliga games, were set to face a side languishing at the bottom of Champions League group D with zero points. But although it was difficult to envision anything other than a third straight European defeat for the Czechs, the build-up to the match was not without its complications.
With Jérôme Boateng suspended and Dante out through injury, Pep Guardiola faced a defensive conundrum that saw him turn to the central partnership of Van Buyten and Contento for this match. Even without these issues, the Bayern manager is not one for complacency. "I have a lot of respect for our opponents," he said before the game. "I saw them against Manchester City and they performed very well in the first half." With an Aguero-inspired City breathing down their necks at the top of the group, this was not a game Die Roten were going to take lightly.
Viktoria manager Pavel Vrba, conversely, was hesitant in wishing for anything greater than a goalless draw in his pre-match interviews. His side, who are currently second in their home league, were set up in a nominal 4-2-3-1 formation that at times looked more like a flat 4-5-1 as they sought to stifle Bayern's impressive passing game.
Predictably, Bayern moved the ball at a steady pace, calmly executing the metronomic combinations and movement we've come to expect under Guardiola this season. The Czechs, seemingly happy to let their opponents venture into their half, were left chasing shadows as full-backs David Alaba and Rafinha rarely withdrew from their side of the pitch.
To their credit, Viktoria frustrated the hosts for much of the first half thanks to a combination of resolute defending and wasted chances. Their back line worked hard to force Bayern into shooting from range, and goalkeeper Matúš Kozáčik pulled off some fine reaction saves to deny the Bavarians. It's telling that, despite conceding five times, he was the Czechs' outstanding player for much of the game.
It was Arjen Robben who eventually found a breakthrough for Bayern on 23 minutes. Dancing past two defenders, he tumbled under a sloppy tackle to earn his side a penalty which was duly converted by Franck Ribéry. The outstanding Alaba soon added a second after neatly controlling a Mandžukić header and finding space at the edge of the box to fire home. The score was 2-0 at half-time, but Bayern's lead could have been much greater.
Any hopes of a second-half resurgence from the away side were quashed as Bayern sustained their dominance in possession. Daniel Kolář, Plzen's most advanced player, was persistent whenever he had control of the ball, but these occasions were few and far between as his teammates left him isolated up front while the onslaught continued at the other end of the pitch. After a counter-attack that seemed to have ground to a halt, Ribéry, clearly unburdened by his recent injury, eased past his marker and lofted the ball into the roof of the net for his second goal of the evening.
Mario Götze's game-changing performance against Mainz on Saturday wasn't enough to earn him a starting spot today, but he made an immediate impact from the bench on 64 minutes by sliding an accurate pass into the box for Bastian Schweinsteiger to swiftly turn and finish. The former Dortmund man went on to score a deserved goal of his own in the game's dying minutes, latching onto a cross to fire into the top corner from close range. These are further signs, it seems, that Götze is returning to his best after a rather difficult start to life in Bavaria.
The final scoreline of 5-0 was a disappointing one for the visitors, who finished the match with zero attempts on goal in comparison to Bayern's 34. But rather than acting as an indictment of their own abilities, Vrba's side simply came up against a formidable opponent that appears to be buying into Guardiola's tactics more with each passing game; a side that – dare I say it – looks increasingly like emulating the form that won last year's treble.
For now, Bayern return their attention to the Bundesliga; a home game against the overachieving Hertha Berlin is followed by a trip Hoffenheim, before Guardiola's men head to the Czech Republic for the return fixture of this Champions League tie. Based on this evidence, we could be in for another emphatic display.
More from Bavarian Football Works:
- FC Bayern München vs. Viktoria Plzeň | Preview
- Rekordmeister Podcast Ep. 22: FCB beat Mainz, we look ahead to Plzen and Hertha
- FC Bayern Frauen beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-0, Move into third place
- Mario Götze and the importance of the false 10 role in Guardiola's 4-1-4-1