“The key to our success was the red card and the goal just before the break,” said coach Jupp Heynckes after his “nervous” Bayern side beat Beşiktaş 5-0 to all but book their UEFA Champions League quarter-final spot.

Domagoj Vida’s 16th-minute dismissal did not lead to an immediate collapse for the round of 16 debutants, and Heynckes was less than thrilled with the way his side played before Thomas Müller put them ahead on 43 minutes. “In the first half we lacked tempo, our passing wasn’t precise enough and it allowed Beşiktaş to play,” he said, noting that Bayern “were a different team in the second half”.


Highlights: Bayern 5-0 Beşiktaş

“We didn’t start as well as we would have liked – we were a bit too sluggish and not aggressive enough in attack,” Müller, who ended the night with two goals and an assist, told UEFA.com. “But the game lasts 90 minutes and we made the necessary adjustments by playing more direct. We have a comfortable lead.”

Not comfortable enough for Heynckes, though. “We will still prepare as normal for the return leg,” the 72-year-old explained. “You cannot take any risks in the UEFA Champions League.”

Up against a side unbeaten in this season’s competition, the risks Bayern faced last night were underestimated among some fans, who saw a 20th win in their last 21 UEFA Champions League home games as a foregone conclusions. The Black Eagles ended up being used for round of 16 shooting practice in Munich – just as Arsenal (5-1, 2017), Juventus (4-2, 2016) and Shakhtar (7-0, 2015) have been in recent years – but the circumstances of the win have not blinded Bayern to their frailties or the challenges ahead.

Highlights: Watch Bayern's 2013 Wembley glory


Highlights: Watch Bayern’s 2013 Wembley glory

Fully 19 points clear of second-ranked Dortmund as they cruise towards a sixth consecutive Bundesliga title, Bayern still have plenty to prove in the UEFA Champions League. That they scored five against knockout-stage debutants in the round of 16 will be forgotten quickly if their European trail ends once again in the quarter-finals or semi-finals – as it has done in every season since their 2013 triumph, with all of those losses to Spanish clubs.

Liga sides are not the only big threat this season, Heynckes noting that “all five English teams are very strong” and among the favourites “alongside Real, Barcelona and Paris.” However, strong competition has not killed off treble talk in Munich, with Bayern now on a 14-game winning streak in all competitions. Heynckes insisted he is “not thinking about the treble”, but Müller – like Bayern’s fans – is not ruling it out just yet, saying: “Anything is possible.”


Source link