Bayern raise the bar with City mauling

PERFECTIONIST::Although the defending champions put on a superb display in their 3-1 victory, coach Pep Guardiola said Bayern had to improve their ‘terrible’ set pieces

AFP and Reuters, BERLIN and MANCHESTER, England

Fri, Oct 04, 2013 - Page 18

Bayern Munich are basking in the afterglow of Wednesday’s stunning 3-1 Champions League victory over Manchester City that put the holders well on course for early qualification into this season’s knockout stage.

The dominant Bavarians made a mockery of pre-match predictions of a close encounter and rode roughshod over their big-spending hosts to carve a 3-0 lead.

At three up, the visitors began to exchange passes with almost disdainful ease, before a goal from Alvaro Negredo gave a measure of respectability to the scoreline as City mustered some belated resistance.

With two wins from as many games, including the crucial away victory in Manchester, Bayern could be forgiven for starting to plan past the pool stage ahead of the home-and-away fixtures against Group D whipping boys Viktoria Plzen.

“For about 80 minutes we played an almost perfect game,” club president Uli Hoeness told reporters. “I cannot remember ever having so much possession or having played such unbelievable football in an away game against such a big-name opponent.”

Bayern, who have yet to taste defeat in any competition this campaign and have gone 32 league games without losing, have improved in keeping the ball, with more than 70 percent possession in the first half.

New manager Pep Guardiola has fine-tuned their quick passing game and constant pressing as he eyes a new record, with Bayern seeking to become the first team to defend a Champions League title.

After Wednesday’s game, Guardiola warned the rest of Europe that Bayern can get even better.

Guardiola has been given the unenviable task of improving a team that won the Champions League, the Bundesliga and the German Cup under Jupp Heynckes last season, but he said he is relishing the challenge.

“I’m lucky to be here, to be training these players,” the former Barcelona coach said.

However, although he conceded that he had seen his side’s best performance of the season to date, Guardiola warned that his players will need to improve their defending of set pieces if they are to repeat last season’s triumphs.

“Our set-up plays was a catastrophe, was terrible. We have to improve that,” he said.

The only disappointment for the visitors, Negredo’s goal aside, was the late dismissal of former City defender Jerome Boateng for a last-man foul on Yaya Toure, but Guardiola said he had no complaints about the decision.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini displayed a much less sunny disposition in his post-match press conference, saying that his team had played “really bad.”

An error from Joe Hart enabled Franck Ribery to put Bayern ahead in the seventh minute, with Thomas Mueller and Arjen Robben adding quick-fire goals early in the second half before City finally awoke.

It was the latest in a string of blunders by Hart, whose performances have already come under scrutiny this season, but Pellegrini refused to lay the blame at the door of the England goalkeeper.

“I think we didn’t play well. Of course, I think the three goals we can all do it better, not only the goalkeeper and you can concede goals to Bayern Munich because it’s a strong team,” he said.

In the earlier Group D game, CSKA Moscow secured their first points with a 3-2 home triumph over Viktoria, who have lost their first two games.