FC Bayern would undertake what was arguably their strangest game of the season so far with their visit to Moscow’s Khimki Arena to take on Russian champions CSKA – with the Champions’ League encounter taking place behind closed doors. Following the display of offensive banners in a previous match the Russian team would be duly punished by UEFA, and as a result Bayern would play in front of an empty stadium for the first time in their long history of European travels.
Bayern’s time in Moscow would not get off to the greatest start with the team evacuated from their hotel after a late-night alarm scare, but they would arrive at the ground determined to head back to Germany with the points against a CSKA side still reeling from their 5-1 hammering at the hands of AS Roma in their opening group fixture.
With the slightly chilly ground empty save for a few ground officials and journalists there would be a surreal atmosphere, with Bayern also unable to provide any support on account of the blanket ban imposed by UEFA. One has to wonder how much of an actual punishment this was for CSKA – it would have surely made sense to allow the visiting Südkurve in. There would be protests from various Bayern fan groups including the influential Club Nr. 12 in the days before the match, all to no avail.
The match would essentially be the latest chapter in Bayern’s hot-and-cold season so far, where they have consistently failed to finish off their opponents while being productive enough to get the job done and the points safely in the bag. With Jérôme Boateng still suffering from a knock sustained at the weekend coach Pep Guardiola would present a new-look defensive trio of Dante, Medhi Benatia and David Alaba, while Arjen Robben would be passed fit to start in midfield.
The visitors would be all over their Russian hosts right from the kick-off with Mario Götze blasting a shot over the bar and Robben having a well-struck left-footed effort turned around the post by ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev, and when the home side finally managed to get a shot on target on the quarter of an hour mark there would be little trouble for Manuel Neuer.
Bayern would continue to patiently pass the ball around nicely and look for the opportunity to strike, and with just over twenty minutes on the clock would finally get the break they deserved. Robert Lewandowski’s through ball into the box would be nicely collected by Götze, and the clumsy challenge from Brazilian Mario Fernandes would leave Scottish referee William Collum no choice but to point to the spot. Müller would step up, confidently dispatching the penalty with ease.
A defensive blunder from Dante would almost present Roman Eremenko with a chance that would fizz narrowly wide and high of the target as CSKA looked to hit back immediately, but at the other end Akinfeev would keep out a stinging Müller effort and Lewandowski would have have what looked like a second correctly ruled out for offside. Just moments later Nigerian Ahmed Musa would slip past Benatia and bear down on goal, but the huge presence of Neuer would ensure that Bayern would maintain their clean sheet.
Philipp Lahm would receive a yellow card for a professional tug on Milanov just outside the box, but the visitors would spurn yet another opportunity to go into the break two goals in front as first Robben and then Lewandowski fluffed their lines.
The second half would pretty much follow the same pattern as the first, with Bayern dominating possession and making most of the play and the home side relying on the counterattack. On another evening they would have been well out of sight, but Bayern would not get the rub of the green in what must have been a frustrating period of play for coach Guardiola. Juan Bernat would find the side netting, a scuffed Robben effort would end up safely in the arms of the opposition ‘keeper, and Lewandowski would collect and chest down a perfect pass from Götze only to be foiled by Georgi Shchennikov just as he was about to pull the trigger.
As the game started to swing from end to end CSKA would also have their chances, but overall it would be a fairly uneventful evening for Neuer. In failing to finish off their opponents there would always be the fear of being caught out, but at no stage would the Russian side really threaten the well-drilled Bayern defence. Both Müller and substitute Xherdan Shaqiri would have half-chances to finish the beleaguered Russians off, but the excellent Akinfeev would once again be quick to quell the danger.
The three minutes of additional time would be professionally wound down by the visitors, who at the final whistle had registered yet another crucial win and maintained both their clean sheet and 100% record in the group stage – with an intriguing double-header against AS Roma to come.
UEFA Champions’ League Group Phase Week 2
Arena Khimki, Moscow, 30.09.2014
CSKA Moskva 0:1 (0:1) FC Bayern
– / Müller pen 22.
CSKA: Akinfeev (c) – Fernandes, V. Berezutskiy, A. Berezutskiy, Ignashevich, Schennikov – Tosic (78. Efremov), Natcho (66. Doumbia), Milanov – Eremenko – Musa
FC Bayern: Neuer – Benatia, Dante, Alaba – Alonso – Lahm (c), Bernat – Robben (81. Rafinha), Götze (77. Shaqiri) – Müller – Lewandowski (90. Pizarro)
Yellow Cards: Eremenko / Lahm, Benatia
Originally published on the website of the Red Dragons London, the United Kingdom’s premier FC Bayern München fan club.
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