Created on 09-12-2015 at 22:35 PM by Chris Hamley
Group F winners Bayern completed a top-class 2015/16 Champions League preliminary round campaign with a 2-0 win away to Croatian double winners Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday, Robert Lewandowski scoring a quick-fire second-half brace to seal a fifth victory in six group matches that means Pep Guardiola’s team have set a new best mark for the club at this point in the competition.
The 19,681 full house at the Maksimir Stadium saw Dinamo hold their own against an unfamiliar Bayern line-up in the evenly-matched first period, but the men in red pushed on after the break and Lewandowski’s double strike just after the hour set Guardiola’s team on their way to victory. Thomas Müller even missed a late penalty as the German champions wrapped up a routine victory.
In the final group standings, the Reds are confirmed as winners on 15 of the possible 18 points, with Dinamo bringing up the rear in fourth place. Arsenal pulled themselves back from the brink with a fine win in Piraeus and join FCB in the draw for the last sixteen as runners-up, with Olympiacos dropping into the Europa League. The Bavarians are back in Bundesliga action on Saturday afternoon in the Bavarian derby against promoted neighbours Ingolstadt.
Green one of five new faces
Compared to the 3-1 defeat in Mönchengladbach, Guardiola rested or benched Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Arturo Vidal, Thomas Müller and Kingsley Coman, and brought in Sebastian Rode, Joshua Kimmich, US international Julian Green, fit-again Franck Ribery and keeper Sven Ulreich, making his maiden appearance in Europe’s elite club competition.
The FCB coach might well have wanted to rotate his team to an even greater extent for the dead rubber, but his options were limited with Holger Badstuber suspended and Arjen Robben, Juan Bernat, Mario Götze, Douglas Costa and David Alaba unfit to play.
The Bundesliga league leaders began with Ulreich in goal, Rafinha, Javi Martinez, Mehdi Benatia and captain Philipp Lahm in defence, Xabi Alonso in the holding role, Kimmich and Rode in central midfield, and Green, Lewandowski and Ribery in attack.
Deadlock at the break
After Swedish referee Martin Strömbergsson whistled play underway on a chilly night in the Croatian metropolis, there were early chances for both teams as the match opened brightly. Benatia headed wide of the right-hand upright from a fourth-minute corner, but at the other end Ulreich fisted a Josip Pivaric shot away for a corner and then comfortably dealt with captain Domagoj Antolic’ follow-up effort from the ensuing set piece.
Bayern were soon motoring and Ribery tested home keeper Eduardo with a 20-yard drive, before Lahm found Lewandowski, whose shot on the turn beat Eduardo but was scrambled off the line by two defenders. Lewandowski then turned provider, releasing Ribery down the inside left channel only for Eduardo to kick away the winger’s angled drive. But it was not all Bayern and a rapid three-man passing move saw El Arbi Soudani bear down on Ulreich, the backup keeper doing very well to close down the angle and divert the ball away for a corner.
Rafinha tried his luck from distance and Alonso came even closer from a free-kick, but the momentum drained from the contest as half-time approached. There was a setback for the Reds on 43 minutes when Benatia was forced off the field for treatment, and then a stroke of luck too when Soudani met Ante Coric’ free-kick with his head but aimed wide of the empty net. Benatia was clearly unable to continue and the visitors finished the goalless first half with ten men.
Robert seals the win
Boateng and Müller replaced Benatia and Ribery for the second half as the German champions sought to push on, but the home team defended deep and chances were hard to come by. The Croats occasionally swarmed forward on the break and Ulreich saved from Junior Fernandes, with Goncalo looping a header wide, but the Bavarians were ahead on 61 minutes when Lewandowski brilliantly beat Argentine stopper Leonardo Sigali to Müller’s cross to open the scoring.
Vidal now replaced Green, and Munich were two to the good three minutes later when Lewandowski latched onto Rode’s sublime through ball and beat Eduardo with a delicate chip. Müller very nearly made it three immediately afterwards as the Croats reeled, but the Germany striker’s effort was blocked.
With the game now effectively over as a contest there were chances for both sides in the closing stages. Rafinha cleared from Pivaric in a desperate scramble and the Dinamo hitman then smacked a 70th minute shot off the bar with Ulreich beaten, Eduardo twice denied Lahm a maiden goal in the FCB captain’s 99th Champions League match, and Lewandowski fired inches wide.
The Reds should have made it three two minutes from time when Eduardo brought down Vidal in the box, but although Müller sent the keeper the wrong way, the striker stroked his penalty against the post.
Live match report for fcbayern.de by Chris Hamley