It was good to see that despite their ear-splitting impact at the World Cup, not a vuvuzela was to be heard on the opening day of the Bundesliga season that otherwise trumpeted much promise of things to come.
After all the transfer speculation and pre-season teasing, it was fantastic to be at the Allianz Arena on Friday for Bayern’s title defence opener against Wolfsburg. Though late matchwinner Bastian Schweinsteiger claimed – rightly – “We’re not up to the standard of last season just yet”, last seasons’ double winners have already found that happy knack enjoyed by successful teams everywhere, and patented by Steve McClaren’s former employers Manchester United, of producing a goal just when opponents think the game – literally – is up.
Misimovic reunited with Magath?
It was hardly surprising that McClaren had just enough energy for one question at the post-match press conference having spent much of the previous 90 minutes faithfully re-enacting every incident with great gusto within the confines of his technical area. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Bundesliga’s first English coach will start with Zvjezdan Misimovic against Mainz this weekend after the Bosnia-Herzegovina international’s prodigious second-half impact in Bavaria, and also with German media reporting incessantly that Diego is set to become a Wolf, leaving Misimovic to join former mentor Felix Magath at Schalke.
While Mainz will be aiming to build on their impressive opening day defeat of Stuttgart – perhaps they can surprise us once again even without Aristide Bancé – Kaiserslautern will be hoping to do likewise when Bayern make a long-awaited return to the Fritz-Walter Stadion in the Week 2 curtain-raiser on Friday. Marco Kurz’s side boasted a stingy rearguard in winning 2.Bundesliga last season, and will need it once again against Ribéry, Müller and co. Goalkeeper Tobias Sippel is part of that mean back five, and has vowed to make up for his weekend clanger – brilliantly described in the German press as ‘einen Blackout’ – in the 3-1 win in Cologne. “I wanted – as usual – to catch the ball and start an attack. I just did the second part before doing the first,” said the German Under-21 international, who gifted Milivoje Novakovic as easy a goal as he’s ever likely to get. “It’ll be a party against Bayern, and this time I’ll bring my gloves.”
Ruud awakening for Raul
Magath certainly wasn’t in the mood for a joke after seeing his team beaten by his former club Hamburg. There were so many reunions and links between the two sides, but the most obvious was that of Raul, on his Bundesliga debut, going up against his former Real Madrid strike partner Ruud van Nistelrooy.
While the sheer surprise of Raul’s move from Madrid to Gelsenkirchen is yet to wear off, the Spaniard must be a little concerned that he would have had better service in a Schalke youth hostel than that which he enjoyed on the pitch in Hamburg. The five-star care afforded Van Nistelrooy, who looked almost as sharp as ever in scoring twice, must have left Raul feeling rather envious. Spain’s all-time leading scorer will be looking forward to this weekend’s meeting with Hannover, who should allow him more time and space in front of goal than the excellent Heiko Westermann did.
Happy Hoff, Leverkusen cured
Westermann’s commanding performance against the side he led to runners-up spot last season was less of a surprise than that provided by Hoffenheim, who had shades of the team that stormed through the first half of the 2008-09 season as they picked apart Werder.
Ralf Rangnick’s mean appeared packed with self-belief despite going behind early on, and if Peniel Mlapa, a summer signing from 1860 Munich, can reproduce his form of last weekend on a regular basis, and Vedad Ibisevic score regularly, then the village side have top-five potential.
Werder have that quality too, and it seems Thomas Schaaf’s men will once again be the Bundesliga’s most entertaining team at either end, especially if you compare their disinterested display against Hoffenheim with their nerve-fraying qualification for the Champions League group stages in Genoa.
For a side backed by a major pharmaceutical company, it’s hardly surprising Leverkusen were clinical in their treatment of Dortmund, seemingly finding the cure for the lack of hard-nosed realism that undermined last season’s title tilt. The ‘other’ major Bundesliga debut of the weekend – or rather ‘re-debut’ – of Michael Ballack went virtually unnoticed as Dortmund were disposed of unfussily. Not unaccustomed to blowing his own trumpet, perhaps the ex-and-now-current Leverkusen midfielder could have done with a vuvuzela.