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Title defence underway

Robben: That's a superb start

As images from 25 May played on the video screens a half-hour before kick-off, some of the Bayern players couldn’t resist taking a brief glance. Exactly 115 days had passed since the historic victory, when Bayern finally climbed back to the throne of European football after a twelve year wait. However, sights quickly returned to the present, and the focus back to warming up for the start of this year’s campaign, at home to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday night. It didn't take long until the well-oiled machine was back up and running.

“Today, they’ve picked up where they left off in London against Dortmund: with a top-class performance,“ Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said with pride after the 3-0 win over CSKA Moscow, a performance that FCB president Uli Hoeneß also found “wonderful.” Bayern played with huge determination from the start: barely 180 seconds had passed before the first cries of celebration, as David Alaba opened the new season with a well-struck free-kick.

“We opened aggressively and put them under pressure from the get-go,” explained Arjen Robben, one of a veritable Armada of Bayern players attacking the Russian double winners. “We played very intense football and got at them early, giving them little to no chance,” added Toni Kroos, praising the team’s compact defensive performance. Philipp Lahm thought the team play had improved compared to the 2-0 victory over Hannover, as FCB were “more aggressive, with better control of the game and better organisation.”

And they were more dangerous too. Before the half-time whistle, Mario Mandzukic scored the comforting second goal. “We played well, especially in the first half,” Pep Guardiola confidently proclaimed, “we did very, very well.” Bastian Schweinsteiger, who continued his gradual comeback from injury by coming on as a sub for the last 20 minutes, joined in the chorus of approval: “We were awake from the start, controlled the game and showed great presence overall. It looked really good.”

'A long way to go'

Bayern stayed in charge of the game in the second half too, although the home side could have played “a bit more forcefully,” as Kroos noted. As, for example, in the 68th minute when Robben secured his club’s tenth consecutive opening day win in the Champions League after a brilliant set-up by Alaba. The Dutchman finished with a thunderous shot, leaving Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev with no chance. The goalscorer offered a concise summary: “A 3-0 win at home is a superb start.”

Jérôme Boateng’s was one of the many happy faces. “We kept a clean sheet and didn't give them many chances,”  the in-form centre-back said, “we’ve set the pace for the rest of the season.” However, the treble winners know this was just the beginning: ”Our next game will be in Manchester, and that’s a big ask,” the captain said. Lahm warned against the premature dream of repeating last season’s triumph, because “there’s still a long way to go.”