. Bayern Munich travelled to WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena hopeful of picking up a routine win against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. But little did they know the early shock they were about to receive. Kevin Volland latched onto David Alabaa s terrible back pass and slotted calmly past an onrushing Manuel Neuer with the clock reading just nine seconds.
The Germany U-21 captaina s goal equalized the record of Karim Bellarabia s record of scoring the fastest goal in the 9th second against Borussia Dortmund last year. The visitors then settled in slowly by rotating possession but couldna t threaten Oliver Baumann. But in the 41st minute the home keeper put a hand to stop Douglas Costa low shot but Thomas Muller was present to slot the rebound home. Bayern went into the tunnel with the scores 1-1 at half time. Second half started briskly with Hoffenheim enjoying a good spell of possession as Pep Guardiola sent in Thiago for Robben to regain his teama s control over the ball.
The match took one more dramatic turn when Jerome Boateng was sent off in the 75th minute after picking up a second booking for a handball inside the penalty area. Eugen Polanski stepped up to the spot, but his poor penalty hit the crossbar thus costing his side a precious lead over the champions.
Arturo Vidal then hit the crossbar on the other side with Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller also wasting precious opportunities. The Bavarians finally found the net in the 90th minute when Douglas Costaa s pass finally found Lewandowski to slot home thus sealing 3 away points for Bayern. Though the match took unexpected turns, Bayern were able to manage to keep their unbeaten record against the Sinsheimers intact.
Douglas Costa is the player to watch out for this season
Last season Bayern looked handicapped on the wings due to long term injuries to Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Xherdan Shaqiria s transfer to Inter Milan. Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller took up the position in turns but it hampered their movement as they are most effective playing in the hole. By the end of the season, Guardiola became aware that a quality winger who can make direct runs and is good at one-on-one situations is required. And Douglas Costa perfectly fitted the profile.
The Brazilian looks completely home in the current Bayern side as it was evident from the amount of chances he created. He was rewarded with his fist assist of the match as he picked up the ball on the left, burst into the box, did a step over to get past Pavel Kaderabek then curled a low shot towards the far post where Thomas Muller was ready to pounce on the rebound, after Baumann had parried it.
Costa’s versatility of playing on both wings bailed out Bayern in the final moments as he was the chief creator of the second goal but this time from the right flank. His pass escaped Thomas Muller which looked like an intentional dummy as substitute Robert Lewandowski latched onto the miscue to score the winner.
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery forged a lethal wing partnership which helped Bayern to a historic treble in the 2012-13 season but the flair was missing from the Bavariansa attack in the past two seasons as constant injuries to the duo have taken out the direct play the Bavarians were so famous for. On Saturday, Costa was the key to inject the much needed directness into Bayerna s game as his darting runs, dribbling and crosses caused several problems for Hoffenheima s defence. Even though it has been two games of competitive football, Douglas Costaa s form and qualities are a clear indication that he is one of the players to watch out for this season.
Hoffenheim should work on their finishing to fight for Europe
Markus Gisdola s men were braced to stop an onslaught from Bayern before the kick-off on Saturday, but Kevin Volland’s first minute goal gifted them a great chance to upset their mighty opponents. The Sinsheimers should have used this to their advantage to put pressure on Bayern, but instead they allowed the visitors to settle down in possession. And eventually Bayern got their equalizer just before the half time.
Hoffenheim started brightly in the second half by robbing Bayern of possession in the opening quarter of an hour but their creativity in the attacking third was not up to the mark. Jonathan Schmid who had an amazing season with SC Freiburg last season, was brought in for the departing Roberto Firmino. The 25-year old hardly troubled Bayerna s defence who lost Medhi Benatia due to an injury scare in the first half.
Kevin Volland might have got into the record books by equaling the fastest goal record, but the German didna t look comfortable without Roberto Firmino in the centre. Bundesliga veteran Kevin Kuranyi also failed to mark his return to Bundesliga as his performance did little to make an impact. Out in the middle, Eugen Polanski and Pirmin Schwegler sat deeper than usual which hampered the quick ball movement.
Polanski was at fault again as he made a mess of the penalty kick following Jerome Boatenga s sending off in the 75th minute. It was more of a misjudged spot kick from the Pole rather than Manuel Neuera s save for the ball to bounce off the post for David Alaba to clear. Hoffenheim are currently 16th in the table which is their lowest rank in the past two seasons. Last season, Die Kraichgauer never dropped below 9th and their consistency in the Ruckrunde was remarkable. They were unlucky to miss out on Europe, but if they are to finally gain qualification to Europe’s elite competitions, they have to sharpen their attacking side of the game.
Bayerna s style of play promises change
On Matchday 2 Pep Guardiola threw in a surprise when he started Mario Gotze in the No.9 position ahead of Robert Lewandowski, who was relegated to a place on the bench. The tactics were typical Guardiola style consisting of a single pivot in the form of Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal employed further up the pitch.
Though the short passing at the back and in the middle is similar to previous season, the movement in the final third seemed refreshingly direct which is due to two fresh additions; Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal. Both the players are instinctive, powerful and unafraid to go into one-on-one situations. Their qualities would have resulted in an imbalance if they had operated in similar areas of the pitch.
Vidal mainly imposes his play just outside the penalty area and back tracks to offer cover in the central areas. Costa on the other hand runs up and down the flanks linking up with the striker or the full-backs creating spaces for the strikers to operate. Although the teama s play has not evolved completely, clearly there is an added dimension to Bayerna s attack which increases their penetration in the box which might develop over the course of this season. Guardiola has already made Bayern a flexible team which can change shape anytime depending on the oppositiona s tactics and adding a different dimension to their game play would be a welcome change. But to which extent will it be successful for a team which has grown playing patient passing football? Well, only time holds the answer.