Berlin: 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 Champions League’s group stage on Tuesday.
Both sides staged a lively opening period 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.
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 capitalized on Bayern’s sloppy defense 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 ten minutes later after Lewandowski utilized 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 book its berth in the round of the last 16 ahead of schedule meanwhile Benfica slip to third place in the table.
“It was an entertaining performance by my team. Of course, we conceded two goals, but we still dominated and staged an emphatic performance over 90 minutes,” Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann said.