Confidence-booster for the final spurt
The FC Bayern players stood arm in arm in front of the south stand long after their strong display against Benfica, celebrating with the fans. The Bavarians showed their true colours in the 5-1 victory over the Portuguese side, demonstrating strength and solidarity. "The match spoke for itself. We played like FC Bayern. We can be proud of that," said Hasan Salihamidzic. President Uli Hoeneß too was "very satisfied" after the match.
One of the reasons for the success was a change of formation. Niko Kovac opted for a 4-2-3-1 instead of the usual 4-1-4-1 formation, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka playing in central midfield on Tuesday. Thomas Müller had more space behind Robert Lewandowski. The Bavarians were in control from the off due to their positioning, being compact in defence, hardly allowing their opponents any chances and setting up high-octane, vertical passing combinations. However, individual quality broke the deadlock.
Lay down a marker
Arjen Robben wriggled his way past three defenders, hammering the ball into the far top corner of the net with his left foot. The second goal came on the break, Manuel Neuer, Lewandowski and Müller staging a superb counter, the Dutchman finishing clinically again. In contrast to the last few matches, the hosts did not ease off but kept up the pressure. "We didn't stop, we attacked again and again," said Kovac, referring to Lewandowski's brace and Ribery's goal.
Thanks to Bayern's willpower Gedson Fernandes' consolation goal immediately after half-time was little more than a footnote. "Especially after the bitter setback on Saturday we wanted to stand up and lay down a marker, also for the crowd. Big teams do that. They get up again," commented a satisfied Robben. The Bavarians had plenty of reasons to celebrate, in no small part due to Robben's brace.
Reaffirm the form next weekend
FC Bayern booked a berth in the Champions League last 16 for the 11th time in a row, and a draw in the encounter with Ajax on 12 December would be sufficient to win the group. Moreover, Lewandowski scored his 50th and 51st Champions League goals on his 77th appearance. Only Lionel Messi (66) and Ruud van Nistelrooy (62) reached the 50-goal milestone quicker. Wooyeong Jeong also made his senior and his Champions League debut when he came on in the closing stages.
"Everything worked out for us today," summarised Kovac, who refused to descend into euphoria after the victory. "It was only one match. We'll have to reaffirm it over the next few weeks," said Robben, looking ahead. The difficult match away to Werder Bremen at the weekend will be the next challenge, and the Bavarians aim to take the next step and "preserve" the confidence from Tuesday's victory, according to Kovac. Robben & Co can count on the fans' support in the north. Numerous fans braved icy temperatures to watch Wednesday morning's public training session at Säbener Straße and get behind the team. "We all play together, we have to keep it up," said Lewandowski after the celebrations with the south stand.