Bayern looked in typically dominant form in the first half, with Thomas Muller heading in the opener, but Ádám Szalai equalised for Hoffenheim in the second half.
VAR took charge in the latter stages though, with Robert Lewandowski scoring with a second attempt at a penalty, Müller having a goal disallowed for offside and Robben eventually making the win secure for new boss Niko Kovać.
Müller gives Bayern lift off in pursuit of yet another title
Bayern began their quest for a seventh Bundesliga title in a row against Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim, who have had back-to-back top four finishes. Bayern made three changes from their narrow 1-0 win in the DFB-Pokal over SV Drochtersen/Assel last weekend, with David Alaba, Niklas Süle and Kingsley Coman coming in. Mats Hummels and Robben were left on the bench. Injury-hit Hoffenheim had dismantled 1. FC Kaiserslautern at the same time, with Kasim Adams and Florian Grillitsch replacing Stefan Posch and Steven Zuber in the starting line-up.
Nagelsmann has talked up the possibility of Hoffenheim challenging Bayern for the title this season, but they had to soak up plenty of pressure in the early stages. Lewandowski and Jérôme Boateng had shots blocked, and it seemed only a matter of time before they would score the opening goal of the Bundesliga season.
A Thiago free-kick was headed out for a corer by Adams, who had conceded the set piece in the first place. Joshua Kimmich whipped it on the right, and despite two covering defenders close by, Müller had little trouble in heading the ball home.
Hoffenheim would have a chance to equalise when Nico Schulz crossed to Joelinton, in the team after an impressive pre-season, who could only shoot wide from a great position. Otherwise though, the Bayern supremacy over the game continued unabated. Coman showed superb skill to beat Kevin Vogt, but the shot was poor and saved by Oliver Baumann.
Unfortunately for the French winger, his night was ended in nasty fashion. Charging down the right once more, he was caught on the back of his foot by Schulz, and looked tearful as he received treatment and helped off the pitch. He eventually had to be taken off, with Schulz receiving a belated yellow card, a fourth for Hoffenheim.
Szalai strikes as Bayern lose their edge
Hoffenheim would have had a stern talking to from their boss at the break, and Grillitsch had a crack at getting them back level soon after the restart, only for Manual Neuer, playing his first Bundesliga match in 11 months, to save. Business as usual soon resumed, with Robben, on for Coman, cutting inside past Adams, only to strike wide. Lewandowski then thought he had scored, but he was offside and the goal was disallowed.
Hoffenheim seemed to be playing with a little more confidence, and they soon surprised their hosts to draw level. They quickly got the ball up-field to find Szalai, who had been quiet in the match. He took his chance now though, making a fool out of Boateng as he got past him before putting in his equaliser.
Perhaps they were missing the influence of Coman, but Bayern looked a little rattled with Hoffenheim not afraid to take the game to them, with Zuber, whose introduction at half-time was making a difference, having a shot saved by Neuer. Vogt though got hurt as Baumann punched away a Thiago free-kick and despite trying to carry on he was eventually forced off injured, replaced by Havard Nordtveit. It was not what Nagelsmann needed with six first-teamers already out of action.
VAR causes confusion as Bayern grab winning goals, eventually
Then came the drama. As Franck Ribéry looking to pull into the box from the left, Nordtveit went down early, eventually sliding into Ribéry who had plenty of time to time his run into the grounded Hoffenheim man. Bastian Dankert pointed to the spot, Lewandowski had his penalty saved by Baumann and Robben put in the rebound.
However, Dankert had a word in his ear, as VAR came into play, unlike with the original penalty award. He seemed to judge that Robben had strayed into the penalty box too soon, and ordered a retake. This time, Lewandowski converted from the spot, and Bayern led.
VAR was not done, however. A few minutes later, a Leon Goretzka shot deflected in off Müller. Bayern celebrated a third goal, but there was a strong hint of handball, with the ball coming off Müller’s arm. Dankert was again sent to his screen on the touchline to assess it, and ruled the goal out.
Robben wouldn’t be denied when his goal came though. Kimmich’s throw-in was flicked on by Müller to the Dutchman, who placed it over Baumann and in. The scoreline was more than a little harsh on Hoffenheim after their second half display, probably left as confused as everyone else by the end. Bayern though start the season with a win – just as they have in the past six seasons.