Berlin, Nov 3 (IANS) Robert Lewandowski provided a brace and paved the way for Bayern Munich’s 5-2 victory over Benfica in Group E at the fourth round of the Champions League’s group stage.
Both sides staged a lively opening period late on Tuesday with opportunities at both ends of the pitch but the visitors from Portugal came off with a bright start as Alejandro Grimaldo sent a free-kick close in the fourth minute. Bayern responded immediately and forced Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos into action after Serge Gnabry unleashed a dangerous attempt on target in the sixth minute.
The hosts were clearly in control and pressed Benfica into its territory as Leon Goretzka came close with a volley before Lewandowski headed just wide in the 11th minute, Xinhua reports. The visitors, however, remained dangerous on counterattacks and thought they had opened the scoring, but Lucas Verissimo da Silva’s header was ruled offside by the video assistant referee in the 16th minute.
Although the goal was ruled offside, Bayern increased the pressure and broke the deadlock in the 26th minute when Lewandowski benefitted on Kingsley Coman’s build-up work and nodded home his 79th goal in his 100th Champions League appearance.
Bayern gained momentum and made it two only six minutes later when Lewandowski set up for Gnabry, who made no mistake and tapped home with his backheel.
However, the hosts continued with an unstable defence and had to swallow a goal as Benfica reduced the arrears in the 38th minute after Felipe Rodrigues Da Silva, known as Morato, headed home Grimaldo’s free-kick into the area.
Bayern then had the chance to restore its two-goal lead before the break, but Lewandowski surprisingly couldn’t beat Vlachodimos from the spot following a handball penalty. Bayern came out with its guns blazing after the restart as Joshua Kimmich found Alphonso Davies inside the box before the defender headed into the path of Leroy Sane, who volleyed from inside the box in the 49th minute.
The hosts continued on the front foot and Lewandowski made amends for his squandered first-half penalty after chipping Sane’s lay-up over onrushing Vlachodimos from very close at the hour mark.
Benfica was able to halve the deficit once again and capitalised on Bayern’s sloppy defence as Darwin Gabriel Nunez Ribeiro finished off a counterattack following a misplaced pass from Marcel Sabitzer in the midfield in the 74th minute.
The Bavarians weren’t done with the scoring and answered 10 minutes later after Lewandowski utilised a goalie kick from Neuer before lifting the ball past hapless Vlachodimos to wrap up his hat-trick.
With the result, Group E front-runners Bayern booked its berth in the round of the last-16 ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, Benfica slipped to third place in the table.
Wolfsburg climbed to second in Group G after overpowering front-runners Salzburg on the goals from Ridle Baku and Lukas Nmecha in the fourth round of Champions League’s group stage on Tuesday.
Salzburg grabbed a bright start on the road and had a promising chance to shock the hosts, but Karim Adeyemi couldn’t score the opener from six metres and just Wolfsburg goalkeeper Koen Casteels to beat in the second minute.
The “Wolves” cut a better figure in front of Salzburg’s goal and opened the scoring one minute later after Yannick Gerhardt’s square pass to the far post allowed Baku to poke home from very close. Salzburg responded well and controlled possession, but Wolfsburg staged a well-positioned defence and gave the visitors a hard time.
The visitors eventually got rewarded at the half-hour mark when Maximilian Wober curled a free-kick over the wall and into the top right corner to stun Casteels with the equaliser.
Wolfsburg remained unimpressed but failed to take a lead into halftime as Wout Weghorst missed the target from close range following another square pass from Gerhardt in the 36th minute. After the restart, the visitors from Austria took over and carved out a couple of chances but for all that Adeyemi and Noah Okafor couldn’t beat Casteels.
The momentum of the game changed out of the blue at the hour mark as Wolfsburg shocked Salzburg with the 2-1 lead after Nmecha chested down a long ball from Maximilian Arnold before drilling the ball into the roof of the net. Nmecha remained a menace, but the striker wasted a promising chance to make it 3-1 from six metres in the 65th minute.
With the result, Wolfsburg reaped a vital win and moved second in Group G whereas Salzburg remain atop the standings.