If you have followed the Bundesliga for any serious amount of time, you would not be surprised to find that Bayern was involved in another record-setting event on Saturday. However, if I told you that the record was involving that fastest goal scored in Bundesliga history AND went against Bayern, you might be more than a little surprised and amused.
That is exactly how events unfolded on Saturday as Bayern went on the road, visiting Hoffenheim. There is nothing that is closer to starting a game with a handicap. Bayern kicked off and conducted a series of back passes as Hoffenheim rushed forward to create pressure on whomever was in possession of the ball for Bayern. Then, just a few seconds into the match, David Alaba passed the ball back across the middle, a full yard in front of the retreating Jerome Boateng and onto the feet of Kevin Volland of Hoffenheim. Volland was lucky to find the ball available for him and was also fortunate that Bayern keeper, Manuel Neuer, lost his footing and slipped as he charged for the loose ball, allowing Volland to win the ball and nutmeg the late keeper for the opening goal, 1-0.
Initially, it was credited as being scored in eight seconds, which would have been good enough for fastest goal in Bundesliga history. However, it was corrected to nine seconds, which sadly means Volland is forced to settle for a tie on the league leaderboard instead of sole possession of fastest goal.
An opening goal in under 10 seconds is pretty much the closest thing you can get to handicapping Bayern. And many fans around the league might think that is a good idea. I will say this was a much more intense match that what Bayern did to Hamburg the week before.
It is true that Hoffenheim essentially started with a 1-0 lead, but it was their tactics and tireless pressing defense that repeatedly frustrated a Bayern side that absolutely dominated possession and chances. Bayern really did control the entirety of the match in most standard categories. They outshot Hoffenheim 21-8 on the day, and this started early, then continued throughout. Bayern also hogged the ball with 73.7-percent possession, completing 84.3-percent of their passes, and tripling the number of chances Hoffenheim had with 15.
It looked ugly for Bayern early on, they weren't connecting well, there was no positive (forward) ball movement, mostly neutral or negative (backward) passing when they approached the Hoffenheim end of the pitch. I would attribute this to one thing: Pep's system, run by an aging Spanish midfielder, isn't the best system for one of the world's three best teams. Hoffenheim should be credited for playing hard and going for the points, which was evident even in the eight seconds of play prior to the first goal.
Bayern was busy all day, but that doesn't mean that busy is the same as productive. Consider the top passing combinations, four of the top five combinations were with Bayern players: Alaba to Boateng (15), Alonso to Alaba (13), Alaba to Vidal (13), and Neuer to Alaba (11). Alaba is classified as a backline player/defender, Boateng is a centerback/defender, Neuer is the goalkeeper, Alonso is primarily a holding midfielder and Vidal is the new Schweinsteiger, a player capable of box-to-box movement, primarily involved in connecting other movements within his side, a more athletic and physical Alonso. Basically, Bayern's dominance of statistics had a lot to do with the fact that their defensive players were playing catch deep in their own half, primarily the defensive third of the pitch, and not actually creating offensive pressure. Sure, these players could be creating pressure if their passes were primarily taking place in the Hoffenheim half of the pitch or the offensive third, but if you watch the match or look at the pass maps, this was not the case.
Bayern did what Bayern does, eventually, against weaker sides. After controlling the entirety of the first half, they were finally rewarded with a tap-in goal from the knee of Thomas Muller. Muller, tapped home after Hoffenheim keeper Baumann did all he could to simply divert a ridiculously powerful blast from the foot of Douglas Costa, 1-1.
There were many storylines in this match to follow beyond simply the action. Mario Gotze, the high-priced poaching from Borussia Dortmund, now entering his third season at Bayern, has not scored in over 1,000 minutes. However, he was absolutely huge on the day for Bayern just when they needed him. He was very active throughout the match, being very productive in the offensive third in passing and creating chances. He was also kept on for the full 90 minutes, something rare under Guardiola.
More on Gotze later, because there are many other players to get to. This early in the season, everything is too small of a sample size, but there are still signs of what to expect in the coming months. Some interesting things to watch for: Bayern players committing a lot of fouls that produce cards. Four yellows on the day for Bayern, against an inferior squad, one of which resulted in a second yellow red card booking. This is just a week after Bayern took two early yellow cards against lowly Hamburg. In short, the way Bayern is playing early in the season is result in a lot of dangerous situations for their backline which force them into either committing serious fouls or giving up goal-scoring opportunities - or both.
It may be early, but this team is starting to look a lot like the Chicago Bulls toward the end of their 2014-15 season under former coach, Tom Thibodeau. At a certain point, particularly under demanding managers, players will perform their roles, but not at the level they need to be at. Bayern looks tired of working under Guardiola, tired of the demands, the formations, the boring passing and backwards, controlling style of play. It absolutely shreds the limited talent, conditioning and mental ability to hold to formations and tactics of their lesser opponents, but it leaves them overrun when playing equals. And Bayern should have no equals, not domestically. This squad is one of the crown jewels of club soccer - Alonso, Neuer, Gotze, Muller, Robben, Ribery, Costa, Alcantara, Lahm, Vidal. We could go on, and the team should, but maybe without Pep.
The second half was better from Hoffenheim, they should more courage going forward, looking to create more chances. Bayern, too, continued to push for the lead. It wasn't until the 73' mark in the match that it got really entertaining. Jerome Boateng picked up two yellow cards just moments apart, the first for a challenge that brought his opponent crashing to the ground, stopping a surge from Hoffenheim, and the second for bringing up his right arm on a free kick, clearing stopping the ball with the use of his arm, receiving a second yellow, which had him sent off for accumulation with a red card. The customary Pep greeting for his players coming off the pitch was nowhere to be seen. For a second week in a row, Boateng has looked maddeningly like a mix of both the mature, world-class back he has become and the cringe-inducing immature player he was when arriving at Bayern from Manchester City.
After Boateng made his way off the pitch, Polish international Eugen Polanski stepped of to the spot to take the ensuing penalty for Hoffenheim. Neuer, the Wall, stood prepared, guessed the right direction and Polanski's shot found the post, bounced back out to Neuer to half-swatted the ball to safety, Alaba making amends for his early gaffe by booting the ball to the moon.
The Bayern handicap against Hoffenheim now stood at a goal within the first 10 seconds of the match, and now Bayern being forced to play the final 18 minutes of the match without one of their defenders. At this point, Guardiola had already made all three of his substitutions, so no changes could be made to his side.
Bayern used their first substitution of the day for defender Medhi Benatia, who needed to be subbed off for injury at the 36' mark, Rafinha replacing him. Pep brought Robben off at 59' for Thiago Alcantara, and then brought off Lahm at 67' for Robert Lewandowski.
This is the second match of the season and Philipp Lahm has been subbed off early in both matches, a bit unusual for team captain, even one who is aging and has seen a million miles in his time as a Bayern man.
The Benatia situation seems to be a hamstring, though reports indicate that it is not considered serious. He will miss the upcoming match with Bayer Leverkusen, which is unfortunate since the match should be an entertaining showdown of teams that should both end up in or near the top four in the league when the season ends.
After going a man down and having played from a goal down, Bayern looked more in control during the final 15 minutes than they did for most of the match prior. Where the effort and ideas were present earlier, the execution was much better at the end of the game. Bayern seemed to create chance after chance and it was substitution Robert Lewandowski who broke the deadlock for the visitors in the 90th minute. After spending considerable time on the bench, Lewandowski showed up and slotted home right when it was needed. The move was set up by brilliant effort from Costa who sent the ball low across the box where Gotze dummied, slighly deflecting the ball on to Lewandowski who sealed the miraculous three points for the visiting Reds, 2-1.
Bayern experienced some bad luck, but also was the beneficiary of massive luck as well. Neuer was there to make the save, but was saved by the post in any case. Gotze left the ball on for Lewandowski, and there was luck. But, there was also skill. World beating skill. And Bayern used that skill to capitalize on their luck where Hoffenheim could not. And that was the difference in the points on Matchday 2.
The scoring came from Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski. Which, if you recall, goes back to what we said last week. The players who are paid to score need to do that and for a second consecutive week, that is what they did.
Again, Costa was a force. His success in his first match was much easier to come by. In his second match, he missed some chances and fired some wild shots into the side of the net, but when the game-winning goal was in, it was the work of Costa that made it possible. Three more points and second in the standings behind Dortmund, who made easy work of the newly promoted. Up next: Bayern, minus their two top centerbacks, will take on Leverkusen.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)