LONDON, United Kingdom, Feb 25 – Bayern Munich swept Chelsea aside with ease as two quickfire goals from Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski’s long-awaited strike in the knockout stages of the Champions League gave the Germans a commanding 3-0 last 16, first leg win on the road.
The manner of the defeat was a rude awakening for Chelsea at the gap that has opened between the Londoners and Europe’s elite in recent seasons.
AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from a statement night for Bayern at Stamford Bridge.
Lewandowski, Gnabry light up London again
Gnabry now has six Champions League goals in as many appearances this season, but all six have come in two games in London.
The man discarded by Arsenal and West Brom early in his career in England scored four as Bayern demolished Tottenham 7-2 in the group stages with Lewandowski also scoring twice that night.
Gnabry’s double in the space of three minutes and 22 seconds early in the second half completely changed the complexion of the tie and realistically ended Chelsea’s chances of reaching the last eight.
Both goals also owed much to the selflessness of Lewandowski, who provided two assists despite looking to end a seven-game goal drought in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
The Pole eventually got his goal thanks to a lung-bursting run and cross from the brilliant Alphonso Davies to edge back ahead of Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland as the top scorer in the competition this season with 11.
Bayern present their candidacy
Frank Lampard was in little doubt before the game that Bayern are strong candidates to win the Champions League this season and the German champions showed why with a dismantling of the Blues that could even have been more embarrassing for the former England midfielder.
A run of eight wins and one draw in their last nine league games has propelled Bayern back to the top of the Bundesliga as temporary boss Hansi Flick has steadied the ship.
For the past six years domestic dominance has mattered little when it has come to the crunch in the knockout stages of the Champions League, but Bayern look well-equipped to end that drought.
A rejuvenated Thomas Mueller alongside Lewandowski and Gnabry offers a potent goal threat; Davies flew forward at every opportunity from left-back, while Thiago Alcantara and Joshua Kimmich controlled the midfield.
Flick could even afford the luxury of leaving Philippe Coutinho, Corentin Tolisso, Lucas Hernandez and Leon Goretzka on the bench to show Bayern also have the strength in depth for the long haul.
Chelsea put in their place
Chelsea were hoping for lightning to strike twice after shocking Bayern on home soil in the 2012 final, but instead were taught a lesson which shows how far they have to go to compete again at the latter stages of the Champions League.
The chasm between Lampard’s men and the best in the Premier League has been clear to see all season. They trail runaway leaders Liverpool by 35 points and Manchester City by 13 despite a poor campaign for the defending champions.
Only the flaws in the other contenders for a top-four finish have kept Chelsea in fourth after a run of five wins in 15 games.
If they do hold on to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition again next season, huge improvements are needed across the board to make it beyond the last 16 for the first time since 2014.