Audi Cup Day 2 Recap: Bayern beat Manchester City not too convincingly; Milan win

Stuart Franklin

Bayern München beat out Manchester City, 2-1, in a thrilling game, to claim the Audi Cup today. However, for a team of Bayern’s calibre, the match was much closer than it should have been. Also, had it not been for Manuel Neuer, Pep Guardiola would have had various reasons to be angry, more with himself than with his players.

Phase 1- Bayern dominate

Alvaro Negredo and ten defenders it seemed took to the pitch in Bavaria. Possession wise, Bayern was on top. However, the manner in which Bayern played almost always reminded viewers of the 2011-12 Bayern, experts in retaining the ball but not breaking down the opposition. This is precisely the problem Jupp Heynckes fixed; yet this is precisely the problem Pep seems to be reintroducing to the team.

Furthermore, to a certain extent, Guardiola's decision to pair up Javier Martinez, Bayern's midfield lynchpin from last season, with Dante Bonfim is not being vindicated. Martinez was beaten thrice if not more times by Negredo today and his blushes were saved by Manuel Neuer. Negredo however only became a threat after the first half an hour passed. Bayern had seriously tested the City goalkeeper a few times by now, with Toni Kroos' ferocious attempt being the earliest threat of note.

Phase 2- City start seeing the gaps

There were indeed gaps to be exploited and City started seeing them. Pep's team was playing in a 4-1-4-1 shape which at times was reverting to 4-2-3-1. The problem is that Bastian Schweinsteiger paired with Toni Kroos is not a good combination deep in midfield when it comes to defending. This occurred less today as Kroos played in the hole behind the striker. Thiago, as we came to find out against Borussia Dortmund, is definitely not the defensive lynchpin which Martinez was in midfield. Schweinsteiger nonetheless came very close to scoring with a header.

Also, City managed to grow into the game due to Mario Mandzukic's absence. Mandzukic has the habit of harrying and hassling the opposition more than any other player in the team. Pep has been leaving him out of the team only for Mandzukic to save his blushes later. Martinez and Philipp Lahm was a combination which Negredo learned could be exploited and tested Neuer before the half came to a close.

Phase 3- Bayern dormant

They had plenty of possession; Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery threatened to send those deadly balls in which Mario Gomez previously profited from. However, those combinations were missing. More often than not, Bayern lost the ball in the final third due to their own mistake. Manchester City's defence must be credited here for holding out so well. Eventually Negredo managed to beat both Martinez and Manuel Neuer. Now, Bayern needed to wake up.

Withdrawals

It is not difficult to tell that Pep Guardiola, like his predecessor, Jupp Heynckes has a soft corner for the many talents of Toni Kroos. He would definitely not take any chances on Toni suffering from another injury before the start of the season. Indeed, when Kroos fell on the ground, clutching his foot, he was withdrawn. On came Rafinha.

On the other hand, two minutes prior to that substitution, Thiago Alcantara and Arjen Robben were sacrificed for Mario Mandzukic and Xherdan Shaqiri. The subs had the impact they were intended to have as indeed, shortly after, the Bavarians were awarded a legitimate penalty and scored via the master taker Thomas Müller. They upped the pace. Jerome Boateng and Daniel Van Buyten were introduced to the action.

Final Phase

Mario Mandzukic was the star of the show as he headed in wonderfully to score the winner. Boateng and Van Buyten more than held their own at the back. Shaqiri came close to scoring from distance, while Mandzukic, with a wonderful turn, hit the post. Edin Dzeko would have the final say however with one final chance. Neuer did well to parry the Bosnian's rather poor effort away.

Third Place

AC Milan claimed third place in the competition. They took quite a battering from Manchester City yesterday. However, today, a goal from Kingsley Boateng saw them beat Brazilians Sao Paulo 1-0.

Final Thoughts

Bayern did win the Audi Cup. However, while Bayern did have many chances, the overall impression is that Bayern is not the same team it was under Heynckes. Of course, changes are expected under a new coach. Nonetheless, changes which harm the team are not. Playing Martinez at the back is not a move which can be favored, especially with Boateng in the squad. Playing without a striker in red hot form who scored in the Champions League final cannot be favored either, especially when that striker has to come on and score to help his team break the deadlock or come from behind.

What are your thoughts on the game? Feel free to leave your comments below!

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