Created on 21-09-2007 at 00:00 AM
Since opening to the public two years ago, the Allianz Arena has staged classic European nights such as Champions League triumphs against Real Madrid and Juventus, but Thursday evening’s UEFA Cup opener was in truth a muted affair by comparison. The south terrace diehards favoured a chant directed at Franck Ribéry’s choice of boots: the France star opted for a pair in the blue of bitter local rivals TSV 1860 Munich (“Chuck away the boots!”). The reaction at the end of Bayern’s 1-0 success over Lisbon outfit Belenenses was a similarly restrained affair.
“We didn’t play to our potential, and we were looking for more than 1-0,“ Ottmar Hitzfeld reflected afterwards. Uli Hoeneß felt it was “not the ideal result. It certainly isn’t great, but it is OK.“ Bayern would unquestionably have preferred a better cushion for the return in the Portuguese capital two weeks hence. “It’s a shame we didn’t get a second. It would have been a much more comfortable trip to Lisbon,“ Hoeneß observed, “now we’ll really have to give it everything there.“
“A 1-0 lead demands the utmost concentration,“ added Hitzfeld. Oliver Kahn issued a warning ahead of the return: “We need to be on our guard. We don’t want a nasty surprise in the first round. It’ll be extremely hard work.“ The Reds always suspected they would need a great deal of patience on Thursday night, but the Portuguese turned out to be even more awkward than many observers predicted, as wave upon wave of home attacks petered out on the rock of the visitors’ disciplined defence.
“Portuguese teams are tactically clever, very disciplined, very well organised and very compact,” Kahn acknowledged at the final whistle. “We had a lot of trouble finding any space at all,” agreed Hitzfeld, although he was critical of his own troops as well: “Some of the problems were of our own making.“
Toni’s solitary strike
The head coach identified defects in his side’s tempo, tendency to dawdle in possession, failure to maintain a bridgehead in their opponents’ half, lack of penetration down the flanks, and wandering attention span. For all Bayern’s dominance, clear-cut chances were few and far between. It was left to Luca Toni to mark his first-ever appearance in European club competition with the 34th-minute winner.
“We’ve basically achieved the minimum: we’ve won 1-0 and kept a clean sheet,” Kahn argued. The Bavarians will aim for the same in the second leg, but with a better return in front of goal. “We definitely need an away goal,” Hoeneß remarked. Munich’s cause should be helped by a less defensive Belenenses, who must score to remain in the competition. “I’m sure we’ll have more chances in Lisbon,” Hitzfeld commented.
From a psychological point of view, the slender advantage may yet play into Bayern’s hands. “There’s no way we can relax for the return now,” Hoeneß pointed out. Kahn also reckoned it was better “if you have to approach a game with total focus. I’m very optimistic about us getting through.“ Perhaps the Allianz Arena will yet witness pulsating UEFA Cup nights, although Franck Ribéry’s boots will no longer be the centre of attention. “From now on, I’ll only play in red, never in blue,” he promised.