Five small steps towards the quarters
"We played very well before the penalty, then not so well until half-time, but sensationally after the interval." That was Philipp Lahm's analysis of Bayern's performance in the 5-1 Champions League last sixteen victory over Arsenal, and his words were spot on.
From the off, the Bavarians lived up to what they had announced in the build-up to the match. "We're looking forward to the Champions League and the big international stage," Manuel Neuer said on Tuesday, and the German record champions showed great energy and focus over the full 90 minutes, pressing Arsenal vigorously all over the pitch. A typical Arjen Robben goal, with the winger cutting inside from the right wing and blasting the ball into the top corner, made the home side's early dominance count after 10 minutes.
Bayern then faced a spell of Arsenal pressure culminating in the Gunners scoring the equaliser. Manuel Neuer saved Alexis Sánchez' spot-kick, but the Chilean netted the rebound on the half-hour. The men from London created some presentable chances now, but the World's Best Goalkeeper made two fine saves to deny Granit Xhaka and Mesut Özil before the half-time whistle.
Three goals in ten minutes
"You could see our opponents have lots of quality, that they're highly dangerous and might score a goal at any time," Lahm admitted. But after the interval FCB ignited the fireworks. "We really hit the gas, Arenal couldn't do anything," Robert Lewandowski commented. The Pole handed his side the lead with a 53rd-minute header before his cunning back-heel invited Thiago to make it three.
But Bayern had more salt to rub into Arsenal's wounds, as Mats Hummels noted approvingly. "Sometimes we ease off by a few percent after taking the lead, so you have to push your team-mates to keep up the pressure. We noticed a lot was possible today, and we wanted to secure a real advantage," the centre-back declared.
Balance for success
"We knew we had to keep scoring as the second match will be in London," Lewandowski added. Thiago duly rounded off his brace after the hour mark. But as "a 5-1 victory is better than a 4-1" and "each goal is a small step towards the quarter-finals," according to Lewandowski, sub Thomas Müller added his name to the scoresheet in the closing stages.
All things considered, the men from Munich turned in a genuinely impressive display. "If we play like we did today - focused, aggressive, rarely losing the ball - we'll make it to the next round," a confident Lahm declared. Ancelotti praised his team's balance and the fact the away side created very little of note by way of chances. The stats confirm the statements: Bayern had 61 percent possession and 24 shots to Arsenal's eight. "If we play like this we're definitely one of the absolutely top teams," declared Hummels.
No walk in the park
For all the delight at their performance, the Bavarians know that the job is only half done. The sides will face off again at the Emirates Stadium on 7 March. "We can't go to London thinking we've already made it. We'll have to show we really are the better team, and that we want to advance to the next round. We must want to win," Lewandowski cautioned.
On Wednesday evening the Bavarians showed they really wanted to win. They were rock-solid when they needed to be and were fully satisfied after the match. Skipper Lahm summed up the evening in a nutshell: "Today's display has given us a very good feeling."