Bayern easily pass Spanish inquisition

Schweini shows his elation at the opening goal. Photo FC Bayern MunichIt was just over 11 years ago that Bayern Munich last faced Valencia in the Champions League. That night they beat the Spaniards on penalties in the final to claim what remains their last European trophy. Of course, they almost added to that collection this summer, but Chelsea had other ideas. So, Bayern took to the pitch against the 'best of the rest' from La Liga in the opening game of this season's competition hoping that happier, more distant memories could help banish recent painful ones.

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes sprung a surprise by starting Claudio Pizarro, now in his second spell at the club, ahead of Mario Mandzukic, who has started well since signing from Wolfsburg. However, all eyes were on Javi Martinez, the most expensive player in Bundesliga history(EUR40 million from Athletic Bilbao), made his first start for the Bavarians alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield. Valencia coach Mauricio Pellegrino - the man who missed the decisive penalty in that 2001 Champions League final - was pinning his hopes on captain and star striker, Roberto Soldado.

It seemed Pellegrino had forgotten one thing, though: Soldado could do nothing without the ball. A very cautious approach meant that the visitors sat deep for the opening half hour, content to let Bayern have the ball, but looking compact and solid as soon as the hosts came close to their penalty area. For their part, Bayern kept possession well, but looked ponderous and created little, with Robben anonymous on one wing and Ribery only marginally more involved on the other.

With 37 minutes gone, Valencia were punished for their lack of ambition as Ribery won the ball in midfield and, for the first time, ran at pace at the Spanish backline. As he approached the area, he passed to Robben, who fed Schweinsteiger to strike into the corner from the right of the area via a slight deflection. A couple of Bayern half-chances aside, it remained the only real moment of note in the half.

Sensing they had to be slightly more adventurous if they were to take anything from the game, Valencia started the second half with a little more attacking intent and the opening 10 minutes after the break saw more action than the entire previous 45. Toni Kroos tumbled in the area under a heavy challenge, but play continued, while the Spaniards at least ensured Manuel Neuer touched the ball a few times, without really looking menacing.

Kroos gets the acclaim after doubling the lead. Photo FC Bayern Munich.Instead, it was Kroos - the best player on the pitch - who then seemed to make the game safe with 15 minutes to go. Collecting Badstuber's pass 25 yards out, he looked up and arrowed a sweet strike into the top corner from just outside the area.

With 'olés' ringing out from the crowd as Bayern stroked the ball around in the final 10 minutes, it came as something of a surprise when, in added time, a rare Valencia cross into the Bayern penalty area found substitute Nelson Valdez. The former Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund striker rose well and guided a fine header into the corner, managing something he never could during his years in the Bundesliga, namely score against the record German champions.

Could the visitors make things interesting after all? As it turned out they could, but not at the end they would have wanted. Just a minute later, Robben got away down the left and surged into the penalty area. As he cut across Adil Rami, down he went in typically theatrical fashion and the referee awarded a penalty. The correct decision, but the search for the sniper in the crowd continues. Up stepped substitute Mandukic, but he seems to have quickly caught Bayern's newfound fear of the penalty spot and his tame effort was easily saved by Diego Alves.

His miss meant that the scoreline flattered Valencia, and while Heynckes was generally satisfied with his team's efforts, he expressed his frustration at the final five minutes. "When you're 2-0 ahead, you can't afford to be sloppy - we should never have conceded. And it's frustrating that we didn't put the penalty away." After missing crucial penalties last season, most notably in the Champions League final, it is something Heynckes may want his players to practice more. Otherwise, the ghosts of 19 May will haunt them for a while yet.


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