BSS : 24 FEBRUARY, 2021, 3:09 PM
Holders Bayern Munich brushed off their recent poor domestic form by throwing down a Champions League marker with an emphatic 4-1 win at Lazio in Tuesday’s last-16 first leg to take a “huge step” towards the quarter-finals.
Robert Lewandowski gave Bayern an early lead before 17-year-old Jamal Musiala scored his first Champions League goal on only his fourth appearance in Europe.
Stuttgart-born Musiala, who turns 18 Friday, is now the youngest English goalscorer in Champions League history.
A Leroy Sane strike gave Bayern a three-goal half-time cushion at the Stadio Olimpico before Francesco Acerbi scored an own goal just after the break.
“We are a huge step closer to the quarter-finals,” Bayern coach Hansi Flick told Sky.
Joaquin Correa pulled a goal back early in the second half to give the scoreline some respectability for Lazio.
“We were aggressive from the start and went full throttle,” Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka said after his first appearance since testing positive for Covid-19.
“I am happy to have played in such an awesome game after a difficult few weeks.
“That was important after we had often been caught napping (in recent games). Things worked well, that was a first good step.”
Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio need a near miracle in the return game in Munich on March 17 to reach the last eight.
“Bayern are the world champions,” said Inzaghi. “They definitely did not need our mistakes to make it even easier for them.”
Flick pulled a surprise by starting Musiala in place of Thomas Mueller, who was sidelined after testing positive for Covid-19.
Benjamin Pavard was also out with coronavirus, while midfielders Corentin Tolisso and Serge Gnabry were both missing with thigh injuries.
Despite dropping five points in the Bundesliga last week and bringing a depleted squad to Rome, Bayern needed less than nine minutes before Lewandowski pounced on a mistake in the Lazio defence.
The Poland star snapped up a weak back-pass by Mateo Musacchio — who was subbed off soon after — to dribble around Lazio’s veteran goalkeeper Pepe Reina and fire into an empty net.
– Lewandowski passes Raul –
It was Lewandowski’s 72nd Champions League goal, taking him solo third on the all-time list ahead of Real Madrid great Raul.
England Under-21 midfielder Musiala, who has reportedly opted to play for Germany’s senior side, then showed maturity beyond his years to calmly drill past Reina to make it 2-0 on 24 minutes.
The lead was extended just before half-time when Kingsley Coman’s shot was parried and Sane tapped in the rebound.
“We wanted to show we were switched on from the first minute, we took our chances and played well,” said Bayern winger Sane.
“We used the ball well and put pressure on them at the back.”
There were two goals in the space of three minutes just after the break, with Acerbi turning the ball into his own net as Bayern counter-attacked from a Lazio corner.
Lazio were in danger of matching their heaviest home defeat in Europe having lost 4-0 to Chelsea in the 2003/04 group stage.
But Bayern’s defence has often crumbled in recent weeks and Lazio forward Correa took advantage of poor marking to fire past Manuel Neuer in the 49th minute.
Bayern are now unbeaten in their last 18 Champions League games, with only a 1-1 group stage draw at Atletico Madrid last December denying them a perfect record of wins.
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