Starting off your Champions League campaign with all three points is invaluable, and Bayern Munich have done just that with an impressive 3-0 victory over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday at the Allianz Arena. Bayern became the first defending champion to walk away from Matchday 1 with a victory since AC Milan beat Benfica in 2007!
Dealing with a multitude of injuries to several key players, Pep Guardiola chose to deploy Philipp Lahm in the defensive midfield position of his 4-1-4-1 with Rafinha at right back. The move worked to perfection as Lahm was instrumental in helping Bayern control the midfield battle. In fact, Lahm spent a large portion of the match in the attacking third of the field helping Bayern maintain possession and apply immense pressure to the CSKA backline.
Bayern couldn't have asked for a better start to the match than what they had. After David Alaba was fouled outside the penalty area, the Austrian stepped up to take the ensuing free kick. Some will argue that CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev could've done better on the attempt, but it doesn't matter. The ball hit the back of the net, and Bayern were winning 1-0 after only three minutes.
With a the goal advantage, Bayern began to turn the screws and constantly/consistently pressure the CSKA backline. It seemed that it was only a matter of time before a second goal came, and Mario Mandzukic was determined to make sure that he was the one that scored it. Only a few minutes after Alaba's goal, Mandzukic was one-on-one with Akinfeev, but the Russian came up with a huge save to keep CSKA in the match early. Then, he put a shot just over the crossbar.
CSKA's only real opportunity of the first half came in the 12th minute. Ahmed Musa dribbled across the top of the Bayern box, but his shot was well wide of Manuel Neuer's goal. Otherwise, there was hardly anything positive for CSKA out of the first 45 minutes.
Mandzukic thought he doubled Bayern's lead in the 37th minute. His header from Franck Ribery's headed pass beat Akinfeev but struck the far post. The ball rolled across the goalline and right into the arms of Akinfeev to keep the score at only 1-0. Finally, Mandzukic hit gold in the 41st minute. Arjen Robben lofted a free kick over the CSKA wall, and Mandzukic headed the ball into the back of the net for the 2-0 lead. A replay showed that Mandzukic may have been offside, but the goal stood.
The second half was much of the same for Bayern. They controlled the match and rarely allowed CSKA to get any great opportunity on Neuer. Arjen Robben made it 3-0 in the 68th minute on a fantastic goal. Alaba lifted a dead ball up and over the CSKA backline. Robben brought the ball down with his chest before powering a left footed shot past Akinfeev for the 3-0 lead.
The three goal advantage allowed Guardiola to get Bastian Schweinsteiger onto the field for a good, pressure-free twenty minutes of action. The minutes were Schweinsteiger's first since picking up and injury three weeks ago against Freiburg in the Bundesliga. He played well in his minutes and played Xherdan Shaqiri in through the CSKA backline what seemed like a dozen times. Shaqiri was called offside nearly every time.
Taking all three points against CSKA was very important with a trip in the next matchday to England to take on Manchester City. The English side were successful today in the Czech Republic against Viktoria Plzeň. They may have struggled throughout the first half, but Man City eventually came away 3-0 victors.
Bayern will next take the field on Saturday with a visit to Gelsenkirchen to face Schalke 04 in league play.