Bayern Munich finally ended the recent hex that Borussia Dortmund have over them on Sunday, with a 2-1 victory over their rivals in the German Super Cup. Although Thomas Muller scored the decisive goal for the Bavarian giants, Mario Mandzukic stood out in a commanding display in his first competitive game at the Allianz Arena.
Mandzukic’s rise to prominence over the last number of years has certainly been impressive; the 26-year-old has recorded lethal goalscoring tallies for NK Zagreb, Dinamo Zagreb and most recently Wolfsburg. Despite Croatia being eliminated in the group stages of Euro 2012, Mandzukic starred by scoring three goals in the absence of senior countryman Ivica Olic. Ironically, Mandzukic and Olic swapped clubs after the international tournament, with the 26-year-old earning his big move.
Bayern’s star-studded squad has lacked depth in the centre forward position over recent seasons, with Jupp Heynckes crying out for competition for Germany international Mario Gomez. Die Roten have addressed this concern ahead of the new season with the additions of Mandzukic and Claudio Pizarro, but it appears that the Croat may well have a more important role to play than initially expected.
In Bayern’s 4-2-3-1 formation Gomez is the figurehead of the side’s attack, and Mandzukic himself admitted upon arriving in Bavaria that first-team opportunities may well be limited. However, with Gomez undergoing ankle surgery of late and set to be sidelined for the first part of the campaign, the new man has a chance to impose himself.
Mandzukic’s performance in the Super Cup will have impressed Heynckes and the club’s supporters. A delightful first touch and finish gave the hosts the lead early-on in the encounter, before an inch-perfect through ball set Arjen Robben free of the Dortmund defence in the build-up to the second goal. Mandzukic’s link-up play with his team-mates, ability to hold up the ball and tireless effort shone through in the victory.
The win ended five consecutive victories for Jurgen Klopp’s men over FCB, and last season’s runners-up were good value for the result. Despite Dortmund coming back into the game in the second half, Bayern deserved to triumph in an energetic and accurate display seldom seen in 2011-12.
The result is an early statement of intent by Jupp Heynckes’ men, who will fight tooth and nail to win their domestic crown back. Mandzukic’s part in that effort could well be telling, as the Croat looks to build on a mightily-impressive debut.