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Another level

Bayern praised for power and wow factor

It’s not overstating the case to say that the crowd, and doubtless millions of TV viewers, were completely thrilled and delighted with Bayern’s performance on Wednesday night. Franck Ribéry was basically unplayable, Mario Götze scored his first goal for the club, and Arjen Robben maintained his current rich vein of form. Diego Contento and Daniel van Buyten got in on the act too with a rock-solid central defensive display, despite never having played there together before. Munich’s entertaining and utterly deserved 5-0 romp against outclassed Viktoria Plzen was a treat for the eyes. “The players really enjoy their football, which was already the case last season under Jupp. But we’ve gone up to yet another new level now,” reflected Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

That new level is also setting new standards: nine points from three matches with 11 goals scored and just one conceded is Bayern’s best-ever start to a Champions League group stage. Wednesday’s shot count of 35-1, i.e. a difference between the teams of 34, has never been achieved in a match in Europe’s elite club competition since the data were first collected in 2004. “Our best player was the goalkeeper, who made sure it wasn’t even worse for us,” visiting coach Pavel Vrba acknowledged at the post-match press conference.

Round of 16 in sight

After a few missed chances in the opening exchanges, Ribéry broke the deadlock from the spot in the 25th minute. The tireless David Alaba scored the second eight minutes before half-time, prior to three superbly-taken second-half goals: Ribéry with a 61st minute chip, Bastian Schweinsteiger with a wonderful shot on the turn three minutes later, and Götze from close range in stoppage time. “We’re up to nine points and we’re in a good position to make the next round,” was Pep Guardiola’s verdict. Rummenigge felt it was “a big step towards the last sixteen.”

Bayern can already confirm their place in the knockout round if they beat Viktoria in Plzen two weeks from now and CSKA Moscow fail to win away to Man City. In that case, the only thing at stake in FCB’s last two fixtures away to CSKA and at home to City would be first place in the group. But that is all speculation, said Guardiola, calling for cool heads and intense effort: “We played very well, but it wasn’t perfect.”

Lahm, substituted after 63 minutes with a slight injury but passed fit after the match, agreed that he and his team-mates have yet to peak. “We’ve certainly pushed on to a certain extent, but it can still be a lot better,” declared the club captain, “I’m 100 percent sure of that.” Lahm feels the intense battle for places in the team is a motivating factor, “and we’re very greedy for yet more trophies.”

The hapless visitors were on the receiving end of all that skill and ambition on Wednesday night. The Czech champions resisted to the best of their ability, but ultimately didn’t stand a chance. “Our players have their skills and quality too, but they were playing against the team that currently rules football,”, said coach Vrba after his club’s heaviest defeat in their Champions League history. “Bayern generated an enormous amount of energy, more than I’ve ever seen before.”

FCB president Uli Hoeneß joined in the chorus of praise: “Pep Guardiola took over a superbly functioning team from Jupp Heynckes and has added new elements. We’re seeing the results of that now.” Chairman Rummenigge feels it will be very difficult for opposing teams to beat Bayern this term, but added a word of warning: “We’d be well advised to keep it cool and not start dreaming of the final in Lisbon already.“

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