With their position at the top of the group and their place in the knockout stages already assured, FC Bayern saw out the final match of their group campaign with a clinically professional if not necessarily spectacular display against a robust but ultimately toothless CSKA Moscow.
Coach Pep Guardiola would make five changes to the side that had beaten Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend: Sebastian Rode and Danté came in for the rested Rafinha and suspended Medhi Benatia, while teenagers Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Gianluca Gaudino – the son of former German international Maurizio – also made a start. Perhaps the most welcome addition however was Bastian Schweinsteiger, making his first start since the World Cup final in Brazil and wearing the captain’s armband.
In slightly damp and drizzly conditions Bayern quickly established themselves against opposition that needed to win to have even a chance of making the knockout stages, and the opening five minutes established the pattern for the rest of the half. Bayern bossed the possession, with Leonid Slutski’s side forced to counter on the break.
With six minutes on the clock the first break came from the Russian side – kitted out in a natty white camouflage outfit – with Roman Eremenko sending an excellent cross towards Seydou Doumbia only for the Ivorian striker to head wide with the goal at his mercy.
Bayern wouldn’t let CSKA’s early chance bother them as they once again took possession of the ball, and on eighteen minutes Frank Ribéry had his ankles swept away at the edge of the box by Bebars Natcho in side the box. It was an easy decision for Portuguese referee Olegário Benquerença, and Thomas Müller nonchalantly sent ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev the wrong way to score his twenty-fourth Champions’ League goal and pass Mario the club record held by Mario Gómez.
Thomas Müller sends Igor Akinfeeve the wrong way from the penalty spot top open the scoring
Despite their extensive possession Die Roten had few clear cut opportunities to add to their lead before half-time, and it was the visitors that would create the better opportunities. Doumbia was sent clean in on goal with just Manuel Neuer to beat, but the imposing Bayern ‘keeper stood his ground brilliantly to deny the Ivorian. At the other end, a well-struck but speculative long-range effort from Schweinsteiger forced Akinfeev into a spectacular-looking save four minutes before the break.
Despite there being no need for Bayern to overexert themselves Guardiola injected more pace into the game with the introduction of Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski, and the lithe Dutchman quickly had the Moscow defenders on their toes with a series of familiar darting runs down the right and through the middle of the field. Robben lightly warmed Akinfeev’s gloves with a shot just short of the hour mark, and on seventy-two minute danced and weaved through a sea of white shirts only to see his low shot blocked by the CSKA ‘keeper.
News of a goal for Manchester City in the other group match in Rome resulted in CSKA heads starting to sink, and as the game entered the final quarter of an hour Bayern upped the ante. Lewandowski had a great chance to score only to have his effort swiped off the line, Robben continued to weave his magic, and the tireless Sebastian Rode also pressed further forward as Guardiola’s side looked to close down the match.
The second goal finally came courtesy of the excellent Rode six minutes from time, with the blond number twenty getting on the end of Schweinsteiger’s delicate left-wing cross to find the back of the net with a firm downward header. With the opposition visibly weakening Mario Götze added a third, collecting a pass from Lewandowski and beating the offside trap before lifting the ball over Akinfeev.
Sebastian Rode celebrates Bayern’s second goal six minutes from time with skipper Bastian Schweinsteiger
The win would take Bayern onto fifteen points, matching their tally from the previous season. The defeat for CSKA and Manchester City’s 2-0 win in Rome allowed the Premier League side to snatch second spot, with AS Roma pipping the Russians for third and a place in the knockout stage of the Europa League.
Results elsewhere would narrow Bayern’s list of possible second round opponents to five: Arsenal, Basel, Juventus, Paris Saint Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk. Everybody will have their own particular preference, but things will be settled with the draw this coming Monday at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon.
With the Champions’ League campaign set to resume in February next year, the next task for the Bayern coach is to see things through to the end of the Hinrunde – with their next opponents being the tough and well-drilled Bavarian rivals FC Augsburg.
Neuer – Rafinha, Benatia, Boateng, Bernat – Alonso – Robben, Ribéry – Götze (46. Rode) – Müller (88. Schweinsteiger), Lewandowski (90.+2. Højbjerg)
UEFA Champions’ League Group Phase Week 6
Allianz Arena, München, 10.12.2014
FC Bayern 3:0 (1:0) CSKA Moskva
Müller pen 18., Rode 84., Götze 90. / –
FC Bayern: Neuer – Rode, Boateng, Danté, Bernat – Højbjerg, Schweinsteiger (c) – Gaudino (73. Weiser), Götze, Ribéry (46. Robben) – Müller (46. Lewandowski)
CSKA: Akinfeev (c) – Mario Fernandes, Ignashevich, Berezutskiy, Nababkin – Wernbloom, Natcho (65. Tosic) – Musa, Eremenko (82. Milanov), Dzagoev – Doumbia (90. Efremov)
Yellow Cards: Danté / Ignashevich, Natcho, Dzagoev