Maccabi Haifa 0-3 Bayern Munich: Late Mueller Brace Gives Germans Road Victory

Van Buytenn Bayern Munich got their Champions League campaign off to a positive start but were pushed all the way by Maccabi Haifa in Israel.

After largely dominating the first half, the Bundesliga giants had nothing to show for their efforts, and they would have to survive a couple of real scares in the early moments of the second period. Having ridden out this storm, the decisive goal was fired home by Daniel Van Buyten, who pounced on a loose ball in the box following a free kick. With five minutes remaining, Thomas Mueller killed the game off with a low drive and then added a third for good measure.

The start the Germans made to the game indicated that they meant business, but the Bavarian side could not maintain the momentum throughout the first period as the well organised home defence harried them effectively, preventing any real chances falling the way of the illustrious visitors.

A simple straight long ball over the top induced an early error from Dekel Keinan, who allowed the ball to drop over his head. Ivica Olic, industrious as ever, gambled on such an action but couldn’t quite take advantage of the havoc, ultimately conceding a free kick as the chance passed him by.

It didn’t seem that this would make a great deal of difference in the early stages of the game, as the red-clad side battered the green wall of defenders, flicking play readily from side to side and recuperating possession with lightning efficiency when they lost possession. A misdirected cross from Danijel Pranjic nearly caught out home goalkeeper Nir Davidovich, who turned the ball round the post, while some intricate play between Olic and Ribery, who was making his first start of the season, nearly prised open the home rearguard. On this occasion, as with so many in the first half, Bayern were just too cute.

Despite dominating possession, Bayern were badly lacking in penetration. After a strong ten minute initial burst, Maccabi slowly crept into the game, with some neat touches from centre-forward Vladimir Dvalishvili cause for consternation in the visiting ranks. Although the Bavarian defence did not always look entirely steady, it was never unduly troubled.

Now enjoying less possession, Bayern saw a drop in their opportunities to break their opponents. This did not stop Olic receiving the best chance of the first period when a neat play down the right hand side between Arjen Robben and stand-in captain Philipp Lahm saw the adventurous full-back overlap his winger and sizzle in an inviting low near post cross. The Croat had anticipated this move, but his finish was weak from beyond the near post, flicking the ball wide when a dink on target would surely have brought an opener.

On 28 minutes Olic did place the ball in the net, again from another Lahm cross, but his effort was correctly ruled out for the most marginal of offside calls.

His team-mates were not enjoying much more luck, Robben firing a free kick tamely into the wall from an inviting central position and Ribery getting stuck in two minds when presented with a shooting opportunity 25-yards out with a little time.

Bayern’s obvious uncertainty fuelled the hosts, who would enjoy a strong spell just before the interval. Promising youngster Eyal Golasa nearly marked his debut in the Champions League group stages with a left-footed strike from the right hand side of the penalty box but saw his drive fizz over. This came just moments after a right-footed effort from the same player had nearly been sliced out for a throw-in.

If Bayern believed that half-time would signal an end of the home assault, they would be sorely mistaken as the Israelis created the two best chances of the game soon after the restart. An error from Lahm was swarmed upon by Yaniv Katan, who elected to strike powerfully from outside the box but succeeded only in driving straight at Hans-Joerg Butt.

Moments later the same player skipped away from Van Buyten on the edge of the box but again his shot was straight at the German custodian, although on this occasion the angle was also his enemy.

Woken by these two severe scares, Bayern burst forward on several occasions, primarily through exciting youngster Thomas Mueller, whose decision making was occasionally lacking. Robben had a fizzing free kick superbly pushed away, but coach Louis van Gaal had seen enough, replacing Ribery with Mario Gomez.

The coach’s move proved to be an inspired one, as Bayern quickly moved ahead. After playing a great deal of graceful football, their goal could barely have been any more agricultural. A centre into the box from Anatoliy Tymoshchuk caused panic in the area, with the ball dropping to Van Buyten, whose swinging right foot directed a powerful effort into the net.

And another strike could easily have followed moments later, but Olic’s square pass to Gomez fell behind the striker, who would have been clean through just 12-yards out.

Suddenly there was a degree of panic in the home defence, which was nearly sliced through by Robben before an ill-advised charge from his line by Davidovich presented a headed chance for Gomez, whose header was cleared by a defender stationed on the far post.

It seemed at that point that Maccabi were poised to collapse, but instead the responded manfully, a header flashed narrowly over the top by Keinan before Dvalishvili was denied by a terrific Butt save after an opening had been fashioned for him by some neat passing. The big Georgian would send another header over the top as the home side attempted to score an unlikely equaliser.

But it was not to be, and Maccabi would realise that with five minutes remaining, when Mueller pounced at the edge of the box to strike home a low drive after the home defence temporarily lost concentration.

The second goal served to liven-up the German outfit but crush the spirits of the Israelis, who would leak a third goal with only two minutes to go. Mario Gomez’s movement out wide was not tracked, and his low cross was perfect for Mueller to meet at the near post, where he had no problems directing the ball beyond the helpless Dvalishvili.

To win by such a margin was flattering for Bayern, who did not produce their peak performance at any point of this fixture. However, they were not allowed to be by their stoical opponents who will not prove pushovers for Juventus or Girondins de Bordeaux.

Goal

~ by footballdirecta on September 16, 2009.

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