Created on 09-11-2013 at 20:20 PM
Bayern brilliantly mastered the tricky conditions in wintry Moscow on Wednesday evening with a gritty and accomplished display to see off CSKA Moscow in Champions League Group D, as Pep Guardiola’s men displaced Barcelona and set a new record of ten straight victories in Europe’s elite club competition.
The 14,000 crowd at Khimki Arena on the north-western outskirts of Moscow saw Arjen Robben hand the holders a 17th-minute lead, and although FCB lost Philipp Lahm to injury before the half-hour, the visitors comfortably controlled the play through to the break. CSKA showed for a spell after the restart but Mario Götze struck a superb second on 56 minutes. Keisuke Honda pulled one back from the spot after an hour, but Thomas Müller replied in kind just five minutes later to restore the two-goal lead. The Russian champions staged a late rally but Dante and Co held firm and posted a famous win.
The result means Bayern are exceptionally well-placed to win Group D as they lead the section with the maximum 15 points from five matches. Assuming Manchester City defeat Viktoria Plzen in the match kicking off at 8.45 pm, FCB will require only a draw to be sure of top spot when the English Premier League side visit Munich on 10 December. The Bavarians’ next match is the league meeting with promoted Eintracht Braunschweig at the Allianz Arena on Saturday afternoon.
FCB at full strength
With top spot in the group still very much up for grabs prior to kick-off, Guardiola clearly felt this was no time for wholesale rotation and sent out the best side currently available to him. That meant there was only one change compared to the Bundesliga showdown with Borussia Dortmund last Saturday, with Götze coming in for the injured Mario Mandzukic (calf). Thiago made an impressive comeback at Signal Iduna Park and brilliantly laid on a goal for Robben, but the Spaniard started on the bench.
It meant the champions of Europe lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Dante and David Alaba in defence, Lahm anchoring the midfield, Müller and Robben out wide, Javi Martinez and Toni Kroos in central positions, and Götze as a false nine.
CSKA boss Leonid Slutsky was without in-form Cote d’Ivoire hitman Seydou Doumbia, scorer of nine goals in 11 Russian Premier Liga appearances but omitted from the squad on Wednesday. Compared to the first meeting at the Allianz Arena in mid-September Slutsky introduced two new faces, Georgi Milanov for Cauna in defensive midfield and Zoran Tosic in place of Brazilian schemer Vitinho.
After French referee Antony Gautier whistled for the start of the match on a bitterly cold and snowy evening in the Russian capital, the home side put FCB under early pressure and Dante was forced to hack clear off the line just six minutes into the game, before Neuer comfortably grasped a header from lanky Swede Pontus Wernbloom.
But the visitors soon got to grips with the slippery conditions and eased into a 17th-minute lead when Kroos recovered possession in midfield and brilliantly released Müller down the left. The Munich youth product showed great awareness with a reverse pass to pick out Robben, the Dutch ace crashing home first time from 15 yards.
Robben came close to doubling the lead midway through the half only to be flagged a fraction offside, but there was a blow for Guardiola’s men when Lahm hobbled out of the action on 28 minutes and was replaced by Thiago, Neuer taking the armband for the injured skipper.
Ahmed Musa unleashed a drive at the stand-in captain’s goal but aimed too high, but the Bundesliga champions were soon back in control, Dante just failing to apply a touch to Robben’s diagonal free-kick and Götze floating a cross tantalisingly just too high for the marauding Müller. Musa caused a moment of panic in the Munich box on the stroke of half-time, but all in all it was an accomplished first-half display from the reigning champions.
Götze’s individual brilliance
There was a let off for Bayern two minutes after the restart when Honda sprang the offside trap and bore down on goal, but Neuer stood his ground and reacted brilliantly to nick the ball off the Japan star’s toe. Honda then stalled with the goal at his mercy as CSKA upped the ante, but the visitors struck back with Thiago just failing to play in Alaba.
Neuer dived to save Honda’s skidding drive as the game opened up, but Bayern struck to deadly effect when Götze latched onto Thiago’s 56th-minute pass and doubled the advantage with a superb dribble round four defenders and a clinical finish across keeper Igor Akinfeev.
There was trouble for the visitors on the hour when Dante was harshly adjudged to have handled a Tosic shot in the box, Honda atoning for his earlier wastefulness with a cool finish from the spot. But FCB were soon back up the other end, Götze hitting the post and Robben going down under a heavy challenge from Schennikov, allowing Müller to step up and stroke home the resulting penalty in the 65th minute.
Referee Gautier then penalised Akinfeev for handling a back-pass in the box, but Robben curled the ensuing indirect free-kick inches wide of the far stick. Tosic blasted an opening into the crowd, sparking a late flurry from the home team, but the same player hit the bar on 79 minutes with Neuer beaten.
Jan Kirchhoff replaced Martinez for the last ten minutes and FCB had chances on the break, but Akinfeev beat away Robben’s right-foot effort. Young Julian Green made his senior debut in place of Götze at the end, with Neuer turning Elm’s bouncing free-kick around the post before Mr Gautier blew for time on a terrific away win.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley