In 2008, it was Bayern Munich's appearance with Bastian Schweinsteiger and all that kept SV Darmstadt alive. On their return, eight years later, the German champions swept the newly-promoted side aside with a 3-0 victory to maintain their 100% start to the Bundesliga campaign.
Arturo Vidal sent Bayern on their way early on, knocking the stuffing out of an enthusiastic home crowd with a long-range piledriver. Two goals in a minute from French youngster Kingsley Coman and Sebastian Rode wrapped up the points as the home side began to tire from the off-the-ball running.
The Stadion am Böllenfalltor tells the story of Darmstadt's incredible rise to the Bundesliga over the last decade. Going within weeks of bankruptcy was one thing; to then rise from the third divison (they were spared another relegation by Kickers Offenbach's financial implosion) to the Bundesliga in three seasons is another. An antiquated, mainly-terracing venue, the Böllenfalltor is certainly unique in a top European division.
Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich's arrival had the feelings of an old-fashioned FA Cup match; the plucky underdogs looking to upset the odds against the top team in the country. From flats, churches and even the town hall, Darmstadt flags were audibly blazoned on the outside walls and from any vantage point possible.
The big guns, though, were all on the bench -- Thomas Müller, Philipp Lahm and Thiago Alcantara. Meanwhile, Robert Lewandowski didn't travel with the team at all. In came Joshua Kimmich and Kingsley Coman, while Sebastian Rode was given a fair chance to shine in the center of midfield. Mario Götze lead the line in what some German media had billed a David vs. Golliath fixture.
If you're a reader of Malcolm Gladwell's work, you'll know there are some advantages to being David. And Darmstadt's long-ball game, feeding off towering frontman Dominik Stroh-Engel with positive runs from midfield was designed to
With Coman, Vidal and Costa spearheading the attack, there was an element of unpredictability to Bayern's attacks: some high-balls, some into feet, some into the channels, but nothing penetrative. On nine minutes, Costa linked with Vidal, the Chilean midfielder beating the keeper with a chip, but he was off target.
The goal did arrive on 20 minutes when Costa played the ball from right-to-center and the former Juventus midfielder Vidal took one touch before hammering the ball into the back of the net with the help of Christian Mathenia's left-hand post.
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The spirit of the home crowd wasn't dampened despite the scoreline. Schuster's men finally earned some good fortune and created a handful of excellent chances towards the half hour mark.
Kimmich lost the ball in a good area and allowed Darmstadt to break at pace. Konstantin Rausch delivered, the ball travelling all the way to the back-post where Marcel Heller slammed his shot into the side-netting. A minute later, Rausch was presented with the ball at the edge of the box, but his shot was tame and safely gathered by Manuel Neuer as the hosts entered the interval still in with a chance.
Fan favorite Stroh-Engel -- the club's top scorer in their promotion season from third-to-second tier with 27 goals -- was withdrawn on 59 minutes, replaced by Sandro Wagner who won the European Championships with Germany's U-21 squad in 2009. Guardiola was concerned enough to seek advice from Matthias Sammer, the club's sporting director.
However, the Spanish coach punched the air in delight as Bayern wrapped the game up with two goals in the space of 60 seconds. Live wire Sebastian Rode was influential in both: he skipped clear of Luca Caldirola on 61 minutes, drew the ball back towards the 18-yard-line and Coman drilled into the bottom corner. Around 30 seconds later, Rode found the same avenue of space on the right, this time finishing at the second attempt after his first shot struck the inside of the post.
Guardiola dipped into his bench with Müller appearing late on. But most notably, Spaniard Javi Martinez made his first appearance for the champions since the defeat to Leverkusen last season -- his only league outing of the 2014-15 campaign.
Darmstadt fans remained buoyant after the final whistle -- and an unwelcome downpour -- with the Lillies in 13th place on six points from five matches. Guardiola and Bayern prepares for a home test against last season's runner-up Wolfsburg in midweek as part of "English Week" in the Bundesliga calendar.