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Emphatic home win

Arsenal outgunned by rampant Reds

On-fire Bayern exacted more than ample revenge for their solitary defeat of the season so far, the Champions League Group F trip to Arsenal two weeks ago, with a thumping 5-1 win in Wednesday’s reverse fixture, a surprisingly one-sided contest as the side lying second in the Premier League were swept aside by the German champions’ precise and powerful football.

After the lively opening exchanges, the 70,000 capacity crowd at the Allianz Arena saw the men in red up the pace and utterly dominate the first half, rattling up a 3-0 half-time lead through Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller and David Alaba. There was no let-up after the break as sub Arjen Robben made it four with his first touch, and although Olivier Giroud cut the deficit with 20 minutes to go, Müller added the fifth in the 89th minute to round off a resounding win.

With Olympiacos beating Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 in the parallel fixture, the result from Munich means the Reds remain top of Group F on goal difference, level with the second-placed Greeks on nine points and with the Gunners now a full six off the pace with only two games to go. The Bavarians are back in action on Saturday in the Bundesliga clash with South German rivals VfB Stuttgart at the Allianz Arena.

Three new faces for Pep

Pep Guardiola made three changes to the team held to a goalless draw in Frankfurt last Friday, with Alaba, Thiago and Müller coming into the side for Rafinha, Arturo Vidal and Robben. The Brazilian, Chilean and Dutchman started on the bench, where there was also the hugely welcome sight of Holger Badstuber returning to the squad after injury.

The home team began with Manuel Neuer in goal behind a back four of Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and captain Philipp Lahm, with Xabi Alonso and Thiago in central midfield, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman on the flanks, and Müller alongside Lewandowski up front.

For the Gunners, long-serving coach Arsene Wenger introduced two new faces to the team that beat Swansea 3-0 at the weekend, with Mathieu Debuchy and Gabriel Paulista replacing Bellerin (groin) and Laurent Koscielny (injured in the morning warm-up). Injury also deprived Wenger of two strikers who featured in the first meeting, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

First-half power play

The sides set off at a brisk pace after Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi whistled the match underway, with Giroud firing wide of Neuer’s goal in the first minute, and Alaba and Costa testing visiting keeper Petr Cech from long range. But Bayern had the lead after ten minutes when Thiago’s dinked pass caught Per Mertesacker and Co napping and Lewandowski ghosted in to nod past Cech, the Pole showing immense skill to control his header as he fell.

There was a nervy moment for FCB just a couple of minutes later when Mesut Özil had the ball in the net, but the Germany international was adjudged to have used a hand and earned a booking for his trouble. Prompted by the outstanding Thiago, Guardiola’s men upped the ante with a quarter-hour played and made a string of openings, Cech saving in quick succession from Coman and twice from Lewandowski, before an Alonso free-kick caused panic in the six-yard box.

The men in red were totally in control now and scored a deserved second through Müller after 29 minutes, the striker’s instinctive shot from a loose ball grazing Mertesacker’s shins on its way past Cech. Bayern let the ball do the work and their opponents do the running, with Cech kept busy as Costa flashed a drive across the face of goal, before the keeper saved brilliantly from Müller and capably from Costa. He could do nothing about Bayern’s third when Alaba exploited acres of space outside the box and buried a dipping drive from 22 yards to make the score 3-0 a minute from half-time.

Arjen’s immediate impact

The first chance of the second half fell to Costa but the Brazilian’s shot was deflected away for a corner, before Robben replaced Coman in the 54th minute. The Dutchman made an instant and devastating impact just 37 seconds after coming on by scoring with his first touch, a deft finish into the roof of the net after superb build-up play from Costa and Alaba.

The Gunners finally fashioned a chance but Neuer was equal to Santi Cazorla’s effort, before Benatia took over from Boateng for the last quarter of the match. Giroud pulled one back with an excellent close-range finish in the 69th minute, with Vidal replacing Lewandowski shortly afterwards.

Cech saved from Robben as the game entered the closing stages, with the Dutchman then denied what would have been a tap-in after rounding the Arsenal keeper from Thiago’s superb pass only for Debuchy to make a fine saving tackle, and Müller was also crowded out with the goal at his mercy. But the last word did fall to Müller who made it 5-1 and rounded off a fine win with a sharp low drive a minute from time.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley