Reuters /DPATwo goals from Robert Lewandowski and one from Thomas Mueller propelled Bayern Munich to a 3-0 win at Barcelona in their opening Champions League game on Tuesday in another brutal demonstration of the gulf in class between the two sides.
Mueller gave Bayern the lead in the 34th minute of the Group E clash with a strike from outside the area which deflected off Barca defender Eric Garcia to confound goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Lewandowski struck the German champions’ second in the 54th, tapping into the net from close range on the rebound after Jamal Musiala had hit the post as Bayern made a rampant start following the interval, hemming their hosts into their own half.
The Polish striker twisted the knife further into Barcelona by scoring again in the 85th, collecting the ball in the area after another shot had come back off the post and tormenting the defence before calmly beating Ter Stegen. The scoreline was not quite as damning for Barca as the 8-2 drubbing Bayern gave them in the quarter-finals two seasons ago but the performance was just as hopeless as they were routinely dispossessed and struggled to cope with the visitors’ intensity.
“I can’t complain about the team’s attitude but there’s a big difference in quality between the two teams,” said Barca coach Ronald Koeman. “They’re a team that has been playing together for a long time and they were even stronger when they brought players off the bench. We have a lot of young players who will get better in the next two or three years. “It’s very difficult to accept but I hope things improve once we get players back from injury.”
While Barca despaired at their inferiority, Bayern revelled in another dominant performance against the Catalans, who they also hammered 3-0 at the Camp Nou in the 2013 semi-finals. “It’s a lot of fun playing here, the boys enjoyed it,” Mueller said. “When you win 3-0 here, it’s a really important signal. We’re really pleased. We gave very little away at the back and going forward, we could have scored one or two more.”
Barca made a promising start in their first Champions League game in front of supporters at the Camp Nou since December 2019, although while the crowd was limited to 40,000 due to coronavirus restrictions there were fewer fans in attendance owing to a lack of appetite for the post-Lionel Messi era.
But Bayern soon showed their superiority and it took a strong hand from Ter Stegen to prevent Leroy Sane giving the Germans the lead, while Gerard Pique had to slide across the ground to block a goal-bound strike from Musiala.
Barcelona’s only real attempt on goal in the first half came from a free kick, defender Ronald Araujo meeting Memphis Depay’s cross and heading just over the bar. Bayern finally took the lead their play merited through Mueller, who scored twice in the 8-2 hammering of Barca in Lisbon and has now netted seven times against the Catalans in Europe’s top competition.
Loud boos could be heard at halftime but things got more desperate for the hosts after the break and by the end of the game Barca fans were sarcastically applauding the team whenever they managed to recover the ball, resigned to their fate. Pique also had a tone of resignation as he reflected on the defeat. “We are what we are, I’m sure we’re going to compete again later in the season even though it’s going to be a difficult year,” he said. “Overall I think the scoreline was a bit unfair but we cannot kid ourselves, they were far better than us.”
Romelu Lukaku gave Chelsea a winning start into their Champions League title defence, 1-0 against Zenit St Petersburg.
Newly signed Lukaku nodded home a cross from the right by captain Cesar Azpilicueta in the 69th minute at Stamford Bridge. But the Blues were lucky when Artem Dzyuba failed to connect with a cross properly and poked the ball at goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
If justification were needed for Chelsea’s decision to spend 97 million pounds to bring Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge, the Belgian provided it with a master striker’s goal on Tuesday.
In their first game in the competition since winning the Champions League against Manchester City in May, Chelsea were being frustrated by a well-drilled Zenit St Petersburg.
With little over 20 minutes remaining Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta delivered a peach of a cross towards Lukaku and the Belgian speared his header past keeper Stanislav Kritsyuk.
It was Lukaku’s fourth Chelsea goal since joining from Inter Milan and offered further evidence that he could be the key part of manager Thomas Tuchel’s jigsaw this season.
“It was an excellent header, a well-timed cross by Azpilicueta,” said German Tuchel, who has transformed Chelsea since replacing Frank Lampard in January. “That’s why he is here. He likes to score and he’s decisive for us.”
Tuchel can often be an animated figure on the touchline but he was calm throughout Chelsea’s opening Group H clash even when his side were struggling to open up the resolute Russians. Chelsea did not have a shot on target in the first half but picked up the pace after the break.
“It was not frustrating. It was tough against very strong opponents. We had to work really hard. I felt a huge intensity from us which we brought to the game,” Tuchel said. “We struggled a bit to create chances and shots in the first half. In the second half it was a bit easier to find spaces and shoot. It was a deserved win. Hard earned. It took us a while to make them tired but I liked what I saw.”
While it was not a dazzling display by Tuchel’s side, it was a 23rd clean sheet since he took charge — more than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues in the same period. And it showed that when they are not firing on all cylinders they can grind out wins — especially with a poacher like Lukaku offering an old-fashioned route to goal.
“The performance from Romelu was not easy. We didn’t create many chances for him, we did not create many deliveries. But he’s the type of guy who doesn’t lose confidence and belief. And that is why he is here and makes him a world-class striker,” he said. “It’s not the only talent he brings, he brings belief and he takes the pressure off the shoulders of other guys around him.”
Juventus won 3-0 at Sweden’s Malmo, Europa League champions Villarreal drew 2-2 with Atalanta, while Lille v 10-man Wolfsburg and Dynamo Kiev v Benfica ended 0-0.
Photo Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring the 0-2 lead during the UEFA Champions League Group E soccer match between FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich held at Camp Nou stadium, in Barcelona, Spain, 14 September 2021. EPA-EFE/Alejandro Garcia