MUNICH: Champions Bayern Munich scored twice in the last eight minutes to beat visiting Hoffenheim 3-1 in the Bundesliga premiere on Friday and hand new coach Niko Kovac a winning league debut.
Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski netted a controversially awarded penalty in the 82nd minute, after he had to retake his spot kick, and Arjen Robben fired in the third goal from close range in the 90th as Hoffenheim ran out of steam.
Thomas Mueller put the hosts ahead with a glancing header in the 23rd minute but Adam Szalai levelled with a fine low shot in the 57th for fellow Champions League club Hoffenheim.
There was some bad news for Bayern, who have won the last six Bundesliga titles, after midfielder Kingsley Coman was taken off with what looked like an ankle problem in his first league game since a ligament injury in February.
“It was a deserved victory... but it is clear it was not as easy as it looked in the end,” Kovac told reporters. “We have to be able to play well over 90 minutes. But I am still happy with the 60-65 minutes tonight.”
Kovac, who succeeded the retired Jupp Heynckes, surprisingly put Germany international Mats Hummels on the bench and partnered Jerome Boateng with Niklas Suele in central defence.
Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer made his first league appearance in 11 months and the hosts started brightly, looking to make amends for a lacklustre performance in their 1-0 German Cup win over amateurs Drochtersen/Assel last week.
Mueller was given too much space in the box and headed in a corner to give the champions an early lead.
Hoffenheim came close to an equaliser but Joelinton’s effort sailed narrowly wide before Bayern saw Coman helped off the field with what looked like an injury to his left ankle.
The Frenchman had missed several months through injury last season. He will undergo medical checks on Saturday, Kovac said.
To make matters worse for Bayern, the visitors then scored with Szalai’s solo effort and looked for a winner.
A controversial penalty given for a foul on Franck Ribery gave Lewandowski, last season’s Bundesliga top scorer, the chance to get onto the scoresheet.
“I would not have given it,” said Kovac of the penalty while his Hoffenheim counterpart, Julian Nagelsmann, was left fuming because the referee did not use the video assistant referee.
Lewandowski’s first effort was saved and Robben scored from the rebound only to be ruled to have entered the area too early.
The Poland striker retook the spot kick and sent Oliver Baumann the wrong way before Dutchman Robben sealed the victory.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2018