Bayern Munich produced an emphatic performance in sweeping aside PSV Eindhoven 4-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday to end a three-match winless run.
Ancelotti came under some scrutiny after Bayern’s recent lethargic outings that began with a 1-0 loss at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League and continued with two draws in the Bundesliga. The coach, some critics said, was too lenient with his stars, giving them too much freedom after the strict-discipline approach of his predecessor Pep Guardiola.
There was a cosmetic change before Wednesday’s match in Munich – for the first time since he took over at the start of the season, Ancelotti had his team spend the night before a home game in a hotel.
More importantly, Ancelotti for the first time started with a forward line consisting of Arjen Robben on the right, Thomas Mueller on the left and Robert Lewandowski in the center, as he recovered from a calf problem.
All three scored and Robben also had a role in goals by the two teammates apart from notching the fourth, insurance goal with a rare header. The oft-injured winger tore apart the defense of his former team with his runs on the flank and trademark cuts inside.
“There is a little adjustment between the last coach and this coach,” Robben said. “I think it can only get better with time.”
Before the match, Ancelotti said Bayern needed to change its attitude, not the players.
And the Italian was pleased with what he saw.
“That was the reaction I expected from the team. We played well,” Ancelotti said.
Bayern began dominating from kickoff and was up by one already in the 13th minute through Mueller.
“We were very determined from the start,” Mueller said.
Mueller and Robben were constant threats, along with David Alaba’s piercing runs on the left.
“Thomas is a player that can play at any position,” Robben said of Mueller, who has failed to score in the Bundesliga yet in six appearances. But Mueller has two goals in the Champions League this season and is the highest-scoring German player in the competition with 38.
“I really have a good relationship with Thomas and really enjoy playing together with him. I hope we have fun together on the pitch for a long time to come,” Robben said.
With the three forwards in such good sync, it remains to be seen what will happen when the other winger, Franck Ribery, returns from injury in a couple of weeks. Ancelotti could decide to play all four, with Mueller in a roaming function.
Bayern did wobble briefly after PSV had cut the deficit to 2-1 and had goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s outstanding reflex to thank for not conceding an equalizer when he saved Luuk de Jong’s volley.
“We lost control briefly but we deserved to win,” Robben said.
The win put Bayern back on track to reach the last 16.
Guardiola dominated the Bundesliga but failed to win the Champions League in his three seasons. Ancelotti has won the title three times and was brought to Munich to finally lift the biggest club trophy again for the five-time winner.