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Bayern 2 VfL Wolfsburg 1

Champions open with hard-fought win

Showing supreme professionalism and remarkable early-season freshness,  Bayern made light of their tricky summer with a hard-earned but merited 2-1 victory over VfL Wolfsburg in Friday night’s official 2014/15 Bundesliga season opener.

The 71,137 capacity crowd at the Allianz Arena saw Pep Guardiola’s team hit their stride after a 20-minute settling-in period and take a 37th-minute lead courtesy of Thomas Müller’s classic poacher’s finish. Arjen Robben doubled the lead with a fine solo effort immediately after the restart but FCB old boy Ivica Olic cracked a shot past Manuel Neuer to cut the arrears on 52 minutes. The contest boiled up to a frenetic finish with chances at both ends but the Reds held on for an important victory.

The double winners return to action away to Schalke in next Saturday’s second league fixture, before the domestic programme takes a fortnight’s breather for the first international break of the new season.

Debuts for Lewa, Bernat and Gaudino

Guardiola’s starting line-up included all the club’s fit and eligible World Cup winners, plus an emotional return to the Bundesliga fray for Holger Badstuber after a 20-month injury absence. There were top flight debuts in a Munich shirt for summer signings Juan Bernat and Robert Lewandowski, while surprise starter Gianluca Gaudino became the fourth-youngest player ever to represent FCB in the top flight at the age of 17 years, nine months and 11 days.

FCB were without the suspended Jerome Boateng, and injury victims Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery, Rafinha, Javi Martinez and Thiago, but the customary long bench included new backup keeper Pepe Reina in his first squad appearance for the Reds, fellow summer arrival Sebastian Rode, US starlet Julian Green, and another youngster with a famous father, Lucas Scholl.

The champions started with Neuer in goal and – unlike most of the pre-season friendlies – four rather than three at the back, namely Bernat, Badstuber, Dante and captain Philipp Lahm. David Alaba and Gaudino began in defensive midfield, with Müller, Mario Götze and Robben looking to supply centre-forward Lewandowski.

VfL boss Dieter Hecking’s line-up included ex-FCB men Luiz Gustavo and Olic, plus former Bayern youth Max Grün in goal as the stand-in for regular keeper Diego Benaglio (flu).

Deserved half-time lead

After referee Felix Zwayer whistled the season underway on a pleasant evening in Munich, the home team started briskly and Grün was soon in action with an early block from Müller, a save at Lewandowski’s feet, and a comfortable take from Robben’s daisy-cutter. Vieirinha warmed Neuer’s gloves at the other end but FCB eased into control and the visitors clustered in their own third as the half approached its midpoint.

Lewandowski did have the ball in the net after 28 minutes only for provider Robben to be flagged offside. Grün then spilled Müller’s snap shot but clawed the loose ball away from the lurking Lewandowski, before the keeper acrobatically saved the Polish striker’s effort from a clipped Gaudino pass and dived bravely to deny the onrushing Robben.

The pressure became intense after the half-hour and the opening goal seemed only a matter of time. It duly arrived on 37 minutes when Robben dumped Gustavo on his backside and squared to the edge of the six-yard box, where Müller threw out a shin to steer the ball past Grün and in at the back stick.

Arjen’s winner

The momentum stayed with the home team who needed just 67 seconds after the restart to double their lead: the alert Robben caught VfL summer signing Josuha Guilavogui in possession 40 yards from goal and linked with Müller and Lewandowski before steadying himself and slotting home. However, the Wolves showed signs of life and Olic whipped an unstoppable shot past Neuer from the edge of the box to cut the arrears, although the Croat did appear to handle with his first touch.

Bayern angrily poured forward now but Grün denied Lahm and then won out in a one-on-one against Lewandowski. Xherdan Shaqiri took over from Götze on the hour, with Grün getting down smartly to Alaba’s free-kick. Hecking’s side showed a tad more adventure with a quarter of an hour to go but that opened up chances on the break for FCB, although Guardiola was concerned enough to replace Lewandowski with defensive midfielder Rode for the last 12 minutes.

The boss’s fears were confirmed when FCB seemed poised to concede an equaliser in the 79th minute only to enjoy a huge let-off instead: Neuer pushed Junior Malanda’s shot onto the bar and the sub incredibly contrived to put the rebound wide of the net from barely a yard out. In a frantic finish Rode had a goal wrongly chalked off in the 84th minute when Müller was penalised for offside despite coming from behind the last man, before the Germany striker was denied by Grün, Robben blasted against the bar, Müller back-heeled into the side-netting, and the Wolves keeper beat away Bernat’s cross-shot.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley