Arjen Robben scores 8/10 off the bench as Bayern Munich beat Hoffenheim
Bayern Munich, chasing an unprecedented seventh Bundesliga title on the spin, overcame Hoffenheim 3-1 on Friday in a game marred by VAR controversy, courtesy of a Thomas Muller header, a twice-taken Robert Lewandowski penalty and an Arjen Robben volley.
Buoyed by the return of captain Manuel Neuer in goal, Bayern got their quest for seven Bundesligas in a row off to a successful start, and haven't tasted home defeat versus Hoffenheim in 11 attempts.
Bayern needed a fortunate penalty and some assistance from the VAR to edge past hapless Hoffenheim, and suffered another potentially serious injury to rising star Kingsley Coman.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- In his first Bundesliga game in charge of the record German champions, Niko Kovac brought on debutant Leon Goretzka for the tiring Javi Martinez to provide more attacking thrust.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Manuel Neuer, 7 -- Back to bolster Bayern in his first Bundesliga game since September but even at full stretch, Neuer had no chance with the equaliser.
DF David Alaba, 6 -- Loaned to Hoffenheim during Louis van Gaal's tutelage, his fierce left-footed shot left Ermin Bicakcic prostrate for several minutes in the first half. We didn't see many of his regular attacking thrusts down the left flank on a quiet evening for the Austrian.
DF Niklas Sule, 7 -- The former Hoffenheimer always posed a threat from set pieces and looked calm and composed against his old side.
DF Jerome Boateng, 7 -- Reportedly not considered good enough for Manchester United but started ahead of his 2014 World Cup-winning teammate Mats Hummels in central defence. Clearly culpable for the goal as Adam Szalai bulldozed his way through a crowded box, but the fact remains Bayern do not lose many games with a fit Boateng on the pitch.
DF Joshua Kimmich, 7 -- The first of many assists for the season with an inch-perfect corner onto the head of Muller for the opening goal.
MF Javi Martinez, 6 -- A sound enough display but hooked off for debutant Goretzka as Bayern had to regroup after the equaliser and look for more attacking intent.
MF Thiago, 6 -- The silky Spaniard wasn't at his inventive best in a game marred by a host of over-zealous tackles -- mostly by the visitors.
MF Franck Ribery, 5 -- The 35-year-old was largely anonymous in the first half. Admittedly, Ribery was also on the receiving end of some rough and tumble treatment from his dogged marker Pavel Kaderabek. However, the cold light of day will show that the French diva "won" the decision that decided the game after substitute Havard Nordtveit's naive but innocuous challenge was somehow deemed worthy of a game-changing penalty.
MF Kingsley Coman, 8 -- Applied the turbo to easily skip past his marker but was denied by a fantastic stop from Hoffenheim captain Oliver Baumann 10 minutes before half-time. His promising evening was sadly curtailed after a knock to his left ankle just minutes later. He injured the same ankle exactly six months ago, ruling him out of the business end of last season.
MF Thomas Muller, 7 -- Bayern's vice-captain nodded his side into the lead on 25 minutes before going into the book after expressing his fury at the hefty Hoffenheim tackling with a revenge attack just before the break. He turned provider laying on Robben's last-minute goal to settle any nerves.
FW Robert Lewandowski, 6 -- A virtual spectator in the first half, easily picking up where he left off with Poland in the World Cup. He did have a goal chalked off for offside 10 minutes after half-time, but can thank VAR for a second attempt to convert a penalty after his tame initial effort was blocked by Baumann. Disappointingly, he didn't kiss the Bayern badge to indicate his undying love for the club after the go-ahead goal, despite now wanting to stay after threatening to leave in the summer.
MF Arjen Robben, 8 -- Dropped to the bench but eagerly grabbed his chance after replacing Coman on the stroke of half-time. It didn't take him long to produce his trademark move, cutting in from the right touchline on 53 minutes before firing narrowly wide. He tapped in Lewandowski's missed penalty before VAR chalked it off presumably for encroachment in the box. He did eventually find the score sheet with the crucial third as Hoffenheim wilted, firing in a fine first-time volley when left in acres of space in the box.
MF Leon Goretzka, 8 -- The free transfer signing from Schalke replaced Martinez on 66 minutes and added some extra impetus in midfield. He thought he had scored with a deflected shot, but his goal was scratched during five minutes of VAR review.
MF James Rodriguez, N/R -- The Colombia star came on for Ribery and still had time to miss a huge chance to make it 3-1 before Robben made sure of the points.