CSKA thrashed 3-0 as holders start with a bang.
Pep Guardiola was delighted to see his Bayern Munich side respond to criticism of their style of play with a 3-0 win against CSKA Moscow in his first Champions League game in charge of the club.
Goals by left-back David Alaba, striker Mario Mandzukic and Dutch winger Arjen Robben sealed a convincing win as the defending champions opened their Group D campaign at Munich’s Allianz Arena with the perfect riposte to suggestions their football had been “lacklustre”.
After winning 14 titles in four years at Barcelona — including the 2009 and 2011 Champions League titles — Guardiola has been the centre of much hype since his arrival in Bavaria.
Jupp Heynckes led Bayern to the treble of Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League last season and Guardiola has been under pressure to continue that success since taking charge in June.
After Bayern beat Hanover 2-0 on Saturday, director of sport Matthias Sammer accused Guardiola’s team of playing “lacklustre football”, but the champions responded with a convincing display.
“I speak to Matthias on a daily basis and he has given me a lot of support since my arrival,” said Guardiola, dismissing suggestions of any problem with Sammer.
“We talk all the time, we talk about the team, we talk tactics, even about the pasta and the fish we had for lunch.
“There’s nothing we wouldn’t talk about.”
Austria’s Alaba was outstanding throughout, hitting a pin-point free-kick for the opening goal, then playing a deft chip over the CSKA defence for Robben to slam home Bayern’s third.
The Dutchman said the team had responded to Sammer’s comments but knew they had been below-par going into Tuesday’s match.
“We know when we play well or when we don’t and we were certainly lacking aggression last Saturday (against Hanover),” said Robben.
Having scored the winning goal against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in May’s Champions League final, Robben said talk of the Bavarians reaching their fourth final in five years is premature.
“We have to take things step by step, get through the group stage and take it from there,” said the 29-year-old.
“We need to focus on ourselves and improve, it’s important to be on your game next spring when the decisive matches are played.
“We faced a good opponent today and got off to a good start with three points, but it’s too early to dream of another final.”
This was arguably Bayern’s most polished performance under Guardiola, even with vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger starting on the bench as he recovers from an ankle strain.
“The team picked up tonight were they left off after the game against Dortmund at Wembley,” said contented chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Bayern needed just four minutes to get on the scoresheet when Alaba floated a beautiful free-kick over the CSKA wall and never looked back against the hard-working Russian champions.
With a taxing trip to fellow Champions League side Schalke 04 up next on Saturday evening in the Bundesliga, Guardiola was happy with the manner of the win as much as the margin.
“We played well, we controlled the game with our pressing and I am proud of the players,” said Guardiola.
“People think it’ll be easy for us this year having won the title last season, but that’s not how it is.
“We kept the ball well in midfield and we play better when that is the case.”
“You could see how we are better at controlling our game with our ability to press the opposition’s defence.”