Bayern Munich reign supreme against Benfica amidst a cloud of chaos

Bayern Munich players celebrating against Benfica on Wednesday. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)
Bayern Munich players celebrating against Benfica on Wednesday. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images) /

As the game neared its conclusion, a lofted ball from Bayern Munich midfielder Joshua Kimmich veered off into nothingness. Serge Gnabry, the expected recipient of the pass, immediately turned to the midfielder and gestured an apology. It felt like the first pass that didn’t threaten Kimmich and for the slightest blemish on an otherwise immaculate game, Gnabry felt obligated to concede his error.

It was a night for individual excellence, particularly on the progressive end. Despite feeling isolated early on, Robert Lewandowski got on the end of an inviting cross from Kingsley Coman off the far post for the breakthrough.

Just a few minutes later, Kimmich seared through Benfica’s backline with a ball waiting to be claimed. Quick thinking led to Gnabry drifting inward as Lewandowski guided the ball to the German to finish off with a skillful backheel.

The goals highlighted a trend that would overarch the game. Kimmich’s vision and range created the bulk of Bayern’s chances, be it finding Coman on the wings or delivering the incisive pass down the middle.

Coman’s footwork continually had Alex Grimaldo in no man’s land. However, the Frenchman could find the time and space to express his art partly due to the dynamism the Bavarians showed. Gnabry’s movement between the flanks and the box led to spacing. The looming threat of Leon Goretzka from midfield pushed Benfica deeper into their third. Leroy Sane’s bursting runs through the middle wreaked havoc.

By all accounts, Bayern felt comfortable last night despite conceding and missing a penalty before half-time. The moment of the night came just four minutes into the second half, for reasons beyond the sheer beauty of the goal.

Kimmich managed to get the ball over on the right flank to Coman, who sensed the concentration of opposition defense on the side. The ball went back to Kimmich who effortlessly found Alphonso Davies on the left. A supple header dropped for Sane who buried the chance in the bottom corner.

Picturesque as it was, it showcased the key to the high volume of dangerous chances Bayern create. Boasting a wide range of versatility and talent in seemingly all positions, the side could afford to pivot their site of action with ease. A crossing situation with Coman effortlessly found its way to the left for an entirely different play with an equal amount of threat.

There is no chapter on defense against Bayern when the book changes every few seconds. The fourth goal saw Lewandowski deep inside his own half teeing up Kimmich before making his way into the box to finish off the chance. Benfica managed to pull one back with Darwin Nunez, yet once again it was Bayern drawing final blood as a pass from none other than Manuel Neuer made its way to Lewandowski who slotted it over Odisseas Vlachodimos for a hattrick in his 100th Champions League game.

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The final score: 5-2. A very ‘Bayern’ scoreline. Their multi-pronged offense almost undermines the sheer brilliance one must possess to execute it. Benfica’s approach felt noticeably different since their last encounter. A less physical approach, committing just five fouls as compared to the 13 in the last game.

Bayern flourished, yet their chaos shows. Issues persist, on certain nights, they could cost the Bavarians. On nights they don’t, Bayern are sublime, a touch invincible. What awaits, in the concoction of brilliance and frailties, remains to be seen.