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Back from Moscow

‘Not exactly a thriller’ but definitely a success

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It was almost half-past one in the morning when the Lufthansa charter flight bearing the Bayern party touched down in Munich, and even that required a special permit, as night flights are normally prohibited at Bavaria’s biggest airport. The players collected their luggage and boarded the team bus in a mood best described as tired and even exhausted but pleased at getting the behind closed doors match in Moscow successfully out of the way.

“We’re in good shape and hopeful in terms of qualifying for the last sixteen,” commented Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after an ultimately comfortable 1-0 victory over CSKA and the maximum return of six points from two Group E fixtures. And in the light of Man City’s 1-1 home draw with AS Roma in Tuesday evening’s parallel fixture, group leaders Bayern already hold a five-point advantage over City in third. Philipp Lahm described the win in Russia as “a small step. For now, the pressure’s on our rivals and not us. We’re pleased.”

Moving swiftly on

The game at the Arena Khimki in the north of Moscow goes down in the annals as the first competitive fixture contested by FC Bayern with no crowd present, but the contest itself will soon be forgotten. “It wasn’t exactly a thriller for the players,” reported Thomas Müller, who sealed the win with a 22nd-minute penalty.

Chairman Rummenigge did not enjoy his evening out: “No-one needs behind closed doors games like that. It came across as boring even though we weren’t that bad. It definitely wasn’t a highlight.” Lahm described the eerie silence, broken only by shouts from the players and coaches, as “very, very unusual. It’s a lot more enjoyable if there’s a crowd in the ground supporting the teams.”

Resourceful FCB fans

On top of that, the home side strung five men across the back and stuck rigidly to their space-denying tactics. “It wasn’t exactly a pleasure,” commented Müller, “but these are the games you have to win. It was a professional, hard-working victory.” Pep Guardiola was “a bit surprised” at how deep CSKA defended on their home field. “It was difficult because they pulled everyone back behind the ball. We tried everything, down the right and left and through the middle.”

Nevertheless, the Russians were immensely dangerous on the counter-attack and could easily have managed a goal on another night. Come the final whistle, the men from Munich were relieved to be departing for home with three immensely valuable points. And in a demonstration of incredible loyalty and inventiveness, some 70 FCB fans did actually manage to follow their team’s 100th Champions League victory live and in person – from the 15th floor of a skyscraper overlooking the stadium. When the players heard about the enterprising idea after the match, they were universally impressed.

“Outstanding,” said club captain Lahm, “it shows what brilliant fans we have. We’re really thrilled.” Mario Götze, the club’s leading scorer so far this term, spoke of a “tremendous gesture. Our fans are unbelievably passionate.” Only Müller found cause for complaint – and naturally in jest: “Unfortunately they didn’t manage to mount some kind of megaphone on the roof of the stadium and spark it up by W-LAN.”