FC Bayern München came on strong in the second half in Tel-Aviv to record a 3-0 victory against Maccabi Haifa FC on opening night of the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League group stage.
Defender Daniel Van Buyten made the breakthrough for the Bundesliga club before 20-year-old forward Thomas Müller's late brace wrapped up the points which took Bayern top of Group A. Despite the defeat – only a second in 29 competitive matches for the Israeli champions – Haifa were cheered off the pitch by their fans.
Bayern seemed unfazed by the heat and humidity of a Ramat Gan national stadium draped in Haifa green, putting the hosts under pressure from the start. The power and physicality of Bayern's midfield and defence appeared to preclude any Haifa attempts to develop their attacking game, so it was visiting striker Ivica Olić who caused the early threat. The Croatian international flashed an effort from close range over the crossbar on 25 minutes and then had a header ruled out for offside.
Trade in attacks
The longer Haifa managed to hang on, however, so confidence levels rose among Elisha Levi's players and their supporters. Moments before half-time Eyal Golasa blasted a shot over, a feat that was emulated by Bastian Schweinsteiger at the opposite end. That exchange was the cue for a more open second-half contest as both sides found space and pushed forward. Yaniv Katan forced Bayern keeper Hans-Jörg Butt into two saves in as many minutes – the first from a powerful right-foot shot from the edge of the area, the second from a weaker attempt with his left after Haifa's captain had turned Van Buyten.
For Bayern, Arjen Robben elicited a fine reflex stop from Haifa No1 Nir Davidovitch with a free-kick, before Van Buyten silenced the home crowd after 64 minutes. When Haifa's back line failed to deal with a corner, the giant centre-half smashed a right-foot shot past Davidovitch to break the deadlock.
Coach Levy made a double substitution as Shlomi Arbeitman and Ali Osman replaced Mohammad Ghadir and Baram Kayal. But more action followed at the Haifa end when Golasa rescued his team by heading Olić's header off the goalline. Still, there were fraught moments to come for Louis van Gaal on the Bayern bench. Vladimer Dvalishvili knocked a ball down for Arbeitman whose clever return flick was met by a Dvalishvili blast that Butt had to tip over. Dvalishvili also headed Katan's pinpoint centre too close to the Bayern custodian.
Bayern showed their hosts how to finish off such approach work in the 85th minute, though, when substitute Andreas Ottl teed up Müller and his shot from the edge of the box deflected in off Gustavo Boccoli.Three minutes later, Müller – who only turned 20 on Sunday – struck again. With Haifa's defence sleeping, Mario Gómez had time to measure a cross which the unmarked Müller tapped in at the near post.