Dieter Hecking hailed "a good performance" from his Wolfsburg side after they beat fellow UEFA Champions League hopefuls Bayern München on penalties in the German Super Cup.
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"It was a really great Super Cup with a high tempo," explained a contented Dieter Hecking. Having just watched his side defeat Bayern München on penalties, the Wolfsburg coach had good reason to be satisfied, with his charges looking well equipped for a season that will feature a first UEFA Champions League tilt since 2009/10.
The Wolves earned their spot in Europe's premier club competition by finishing runners-up to Bayern in the Bundesliga last term, though they rarely threatened Josep Guardiola's runaway leaders before finishing ten points back. They nearly came out second best again in the Super Cup as well, needing substitute Nicklas Bendtner's 89th-minute leveller to set up a shoot-out in which the Denmark forward buried the winning spot kick after Xabi Alonso had missed.
"Bayern had one or two very good chances on goal – indeed they had more chances overall," added Hecking, whose team will enter the UEFA Champions League group stage draw with Bayern and Borussia Mönchengladbach – and potentially play-off hopefuls Bayer Leverkusen – on 27 August. "Overall, though, it was a good performance from my team."
For Bayern, the mission now will be to recover from another Super Cup setback. Coach Josep Guardiola has yet to win the competition after losing the pre-season opener for the third consecutive year, but his team bounced back to clinch the Bundesliga following both their defeats by Dortmund in 2013 and 2014. "Obviously the Bundesliga, cup and Champions League are more important, but a title is a title," said the Spaniard. "It's a shame."
UEFA Champions League semi-finalists last season, Bayern have nonetheless been busy strengthening for the upcoming campaign. It was the familiar figure of Arjen Robben who put them ahead on 49 minutes, but all eyes were on Douglas Costa at the outset – the only new face in either lineup at the start of the game.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder put in a promising debut performance on the left, showing that he can be more than just a back-up for the currently injured Franck Ribéry. Time and again, the Brazil international left his opponent Vieirinha for dead, and never more decisively than when he beat the Portugal right-back and delivered a low cross intended for Robert Lewandowski, from which Robben was able to open the scoring.
Fellow new signing Arturo Vidal started on the bench, having yet to complete a full week of training since his move from Juventus. Despite his rustiness, the Chilean was brought on for the last 16 minutes and he gave the Bayern fans a tantalising taste of exactly what they are hoping for this term: midfield aggression. Indeed, just eight minutes after coming on, Vidal had already picked up his first yellow card in a Bayern shirt.
"They made a good impression," said Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of his new team-mates. "They give their all in training and we see that every day. They will add strong qualities and definitely help the team this season."
Bayern were certainly the stronger side over the 90 minutes, yet Wolfsburg showed precisely why they will be the Bundesliga champions' toughest challengers this season, putting in another display of counterattacking verve and attacking guile. "We already knew that," commented Robben. "We saw that last season, but I'm looking forward to it. There has to be competition, and the Bundesliga has to become interesting again. There are other good teams as well."
How Wolfsburg cope with the dual demands of a Bundesliga campaign and UEFA Champions League action remains to be seen, but their own star signing looked to be settling in well. Snapped up from Mönchengladbach, Max Kruse entered the fray with 20 minutes remaining and won the ball back to begin the move that ended with Kevin De Bruyne crossing for Bendtner to tap in.
Hecking will be eager for more of the same from Kruse, and must be hoping Bendtner's contribution points to a more productive season after the former Arsenal striker managed just one league goal in 2014/15. De Bruyne, though, much coveted around Europe, remains the jewel in the crown, and he was presented with his German footballer of the year award before kick-off. "For the first game of the season, it was pretty good for both teams," concluded the Belgium playmaker.