FC Bayern München coach Felix Magath had talked of the importance of kicking off this UEFA Champions League Group A campaign on a winning note - and his side duly obliged with a 1-0 victory against SK Rapid Wien.
Tough on Rapid
Substitute José Paolo Guerrero got the goal midway through the second half but the result was tough on a Rapid team who fought tenaciously on their return to the Champions League for the first time since 1996/97. Steffen Hofmann and Andreas Dober both hit the crossbar and Jozef Valachovič missed a penalty, yet it was Bayern who eventually made one of their chances pay.
If Rapid had needed inspiration, they could draw on the career of former favourite Toni Fritsch, whose death on Tuesday was marked by a minute's silence before kick-off. Fritsch, 60, died of a heart attack soon after collecting his tickets for the match. He was affectionately known in Austria as 'Wembley Toni' after scoring twice in a 3-2 victory against England in London in 1965. To top that, seven years later, Fritsch swapped European football for the American variety, starring as a kicker for the Dallas Cowboys during their 1970s heyday.
If that switch was surprising then so was Rapid coach Josef Hickersberger's decision to start with influential pair Hofmann and Andreas Ivanschitz on the flanks rather than in their customary central positions. The tactic almost paid off on ten minutes when the latter broke into the Bayern box, but having worked space for a shot, Ivanschitz scuffed the ball wide.
Almost 3,000 Bayern fans had made the journey from Bavaria and their presence stoked up a real derby atmosphere. Roy Makaay's return from injury had given them reason to cheer even before he came close to breaking the deadlock on 21 minutes with a curling strike that Helge Payer did well to grasp. Six minutes later the goalkeeper blocked brilliantly with his legs as Claudio Pizarro stormed through on goal, the Peruvian sent clear by Mehmet Scholl who was deputising for the injured Michael Ballack.
Bayern were in the ascendancy but they were fortunate not to fall behind six minutes before the interval when an unmarked Hofmann narrowly failed to connect with György Garics's deep cross. Rapid had suddenly seized the initiative and Marek Kincl contrived to fire over from six metres before Oliver Kahn tipped over Hofmann's free-kick with the final play of the half.
Saved by the bar
Hofmann was given another chance from a similar range four minutes after the restart. This time he did beat Kahn with his free-kick, only for the ball to smack back off the crossbar. Dober reached the rebound but his looping header dipped agonisingly on to the woodwork then behind.
Bayern coach Felix Magath had seen enough. On 52 minutes Martin Demichelis came on to tighten the midfield and Guerrero replaced Pizarro in attack. The double substitution had the desired effect eight minutes later. Lucio crossed from the left and though Payer brilliantly saved Makaay's point-blank header, the ball fell to Guerrero whose miskicked shot from one metre trickled over the line.
Bayern streamed forward and Payer saved first from Makaay then from Bastian Schweinsteiger in quick succession. But just as the game seemed to be drifting away from the Viennese side, Muhammet Akagündüz was caught by Lucio in the area on 80 minutes, giving Rapid the opportunity to draw level from the spot.
Up stepped Valachovič, scorer of both Rapid goals in their 2-1 third qualifying round win against FC Lokomotiv Moskva, but this time he came up short, sending his penalty wide of Kahn's right post. With that went Rapid's chances.
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