After much anticipation the Champions League would finally get under way, with FC Bayern taking on English Champions Manchester City at a packed Allianz Arena. With all of our injury problems many Bayern fans had looked at this game somewhat nervously, and there would be mixed feelings when seeing the lineup. Moroccan Medhi Benatia would finally make his debut (in the Champions’ League, no less!) while Brazilian Rafinha would be back in the starting lineup after a two month lay off.
Joining those watching on the sidelines would be Franck Ribéry and Holger Badstuber, while Arjen Robben – not quite fully fit – would be on the bench.
The game would start in dramatic fashion, and pretty much set the tone for what would be a nerve-shredding evening for everyone in red and white at the Allianz. With less than a minute gone Mario looked to have set up Thomas Müller with an excellent chance, but would put the ball wide from close range. There looked to have been a slight trip by City ‘keeper Joe Hart, but referee would just wave play on.
Bayern could very well have been away and clear before the break, as they continued to make chances. Hart would respond brilliantly to a Müller header after a smart cross from Juan Bernat, and just moments later Müller would almost get on the end of a neat through ball from Götze, who would also test the City ‘keeper.
The visitors would have their first real effort on twenty three minutes as former VfL Wolfsburg man Edin Dzeko curled a shot past Manuel Neuer’s right post, but Bayern would be by far the better side. David Alaba would send a shot narrowly wide on the half-hour mark before testing Hart with a well-struck drive moments later, seizing on a mistake from former Münch’ner Martín Demichelis. The Austrian would find Robert Lewandowski nine minutes before the break, but a poor first touch would let the Polish striker down, much to the disappointment of the home crowd.
The second half would see pretty much the same story, and it looked as though it was going to be one of those European evenings for Bayern. Lahm would shoot wide, Götze would hit the target but make it easy for Hart, and the referee would turn a blind eye to a blue-shirted defender grabbing a handful of Benatia’s shirt. The otherwise impressive Hart would make a complete mess of a speculative effort from Rafinha, but as Müller put the rebound wide the flag would go up for offside.
With fifteen minutes left Arjen Robben would come for Müller, and with it change the dynamic of the contest. We would be seeing those familiar darting runs, and on one occasion a jinking run that would end up with a fall in the box. Play on, said the referee.
There would be a scare at the other end as Benatia looked to have clipped David Silva, and on this occasion we could be thankful that the Spanish referee ignored the protests. To concede a penalty at that stage, as legitimate as it might have looked, would have cruel in the extreme.
Claudio Pizarro would replace Rafinha and Dante would come on for Benatia as Pep Guardiola continued press for the win, and with just seconds remaining in normal time the moment would come. With the City defence unable to clear as their penalty area resembled a pinball machine, the ball would fall to Jérôme Boateng. Just moments before the big centre-back had seen a well-struck effort turned around the post by Hart, but this time his shot would take the thinnest of deflections of Götze before crashing into the right side of the net.
Jérôme Boateng runs to the touchline with Juan Bernat in pursuit after thumping in Bayern’s late winner
Wahnsinn! After all of the pressure and the opportunities, Bayern had got what they had deserved. Boateng charged to the touchline, and the crowd ramped up the volume.
There would be a heart-stopping moment deep into injury time as Sergio Agüero muscled past Dante, but Neuer would do enough to put off the Argentinian and watch the ball roll harmlessly wide. When the final whistle blew, the atmosphere at the Allianz would be one of happiness and relief. Three points on the board, and a trip to Moscow next!
UEFA Champions’ League Group Phase Week 1
Allianz Arena, München, 17.09.2014
FC Bayern 1:0 (0:0) Manchester City
Boateng 90. / –
FC Bayern: Neuer – Rafinha (84. Pizarro), Benatia (85. Dante), Boateng, Bernat – Lahm (c), Alonso, Alaba – Götze, Müller (75. Robben), Lewandowski.
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Demichelis, Kompany (c), Clichy – Fernandinho, Toure – Navas (88. Kolarov), Silva, Nasri (58. Milner), Džeko (74. Agüero)
Yellow Cards: – / Džeko, Kompany, Clichy, Demichelis