The drive and the urgency to Manchester City’s playing style was nowhere to be found. Bayern Munich dominated from start to finish. Another lacklustre performance caps off a torrid start for Manuel Pellegrini as his side struggle to find consistency in their performances. They look a fraction of the team that thrashed Newcastle United 4-0 in their opening Premier League fixture.
Bayern were calm and controlled. They maintained 66% possession and used it to effect to break down and frustrate the home side. Franck Ribery opened the scoring early. The second half saw Thomas Muller add another within ten minutes from kick-off and the German master-class put the game to bed on the hour as Arjen Robben put the third away. City grabbed their consolation with a goal from Alvaro Negredo with ten minutes remaining. Too late.
The men in blue did not show up for the occasion. Unbeaten in 20 home matches in the Champions League, this time they could not withstand the quality of the current trophy holders.
It was always going to be a tough ask for any full back to control and withhold Robben and Ribery, none the least Micah Richards who made only his second start of the season. A risky move to choose the Englishman over the reliable Pablo Zabaleta did not pay off, as he and Gael Clichy struggled all night. Joe Hart continued his poor form, twice letting in goals at the near post, where he should have had covered. A powerful and strong midfield of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho looked weak and struggled to make an impact as City began to lose control of the midfield and the possession.
Bayern were playing full of confidence. Ribery and Robben darted down the wings supplying crosses and occasionally finding room to shoot. Philipp Lahm darted around midfield. The little German made himself mighty against Toure and Fernandinho as he won balls back and supplied to his team-mates. Muller never stopped working, playing as the forward man, moving left and right. Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic struggled to contain him. Pep Guardiola had now developed the organisation and consistency of this German side that had been built by previous manager Jupp Heynckes. They showed what they could do in attack with the possession they held and have three goals to show for it.
Seven minutes into the match and the first mistake had been made. Ribery running at Richards down the left cut inside and Hart could not stop his thunderbolt shot despite getting a hand to it. He knows of all people that it is not good enough to be beaten like that at the near post.
A goal up and already in control, Bayern began their conquering of the midfield and City struggled to get going. Robben drove into the box past Nastasic too easily and fired across the gaping goal just ahead of Muller. Again they thrived down the left as Ribery cunningly played through David Alaba. His shot was saved by Hart and was quick to catch the rebound off Nastasic’s chest.
City capped off a frustrating first half, as Sergio Aguero was booked for catching Rafinha. They were lucky it was only one goal.
City needed to regain the control of the midfield in order to balance the tempo and bring the game to Bayern. It was incredulous that no changes were made. Bayern were allowed to continue how they began.
Ten minutes into the half Dante knocked the ball forward. Muller escaped from the ball watching Clichy and took it round Hart. At two down a change was finally made but not the one that was needed as Edin Dzeko was instantly replaced by Negredo.
City paid the price, as again the ball was lost in midfield, this time picked up by Toni Kroos who played it forward to Robben. Once again he proved too hot to handle for Nastasic as the winger ran at him and his shot beat Hart at the near post, which again looked as if he had covered.
It looked like job done for the visitors but still they yearned for more. Soon after Hart made a better save against Kroos and later on another from a Ribery drive. “Football’s coming home” echoed around the Etihad as the travelling German supporters cheered and sung away.
Substitute James Milner provided the best chance for City with a shot that was forced over the bar by Manuel Neuer. Bayern had momentarily slightly lost their foothold in the match. Negredo pulled one back with a great turn away from Jerome Boateng and a superb shot that had Neuer easily beaten.
Boateng ended a fantastic evening for Bayern on a down note as he found himself red carded for a tackle from behind on Toure who was through on goal. Although many fans will not like it, in many respects it was necessary tackle as the centre-half sacrificed himself for the benefit of the team. David Silva took the free kick and his left footed shot rattled the bar. The final chance came from Negredo as Milner crossed into the box but the Spaniard sent his header just wide of the post. Though it was painful to watch, the home fans nonetheless applauded off their opponents. They knew they had witnessed football at its best and football at its worst. The Bayern supporters celebrated by doing The Poznan.
Whilst City are favourites alongside Bayern to qualify from the group it begs the question as to how far they can actually go in the tournament, after they played so badly against Bayern tonight, who top Group D with six points. They have never qualified out of the group stage and dramatic improvements will need to be made if they want to compete against European teams of the highest level. They saw one of them last night.