Lewandowski hat-trick lifts Bayern to Champions League last 16

AP , Wednesday 3 Nov 2021

After two weeks without a coach and falling to a disastrous defeat, Bayern Munich is back to its usual winning ways.

Robert Lewandowski
Bayern s Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring his side s fifth goal during the Champions League group E soccer match between Bayern Munich and Benfica Lisbon in Munich, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 (AP)

The German champion booked its place in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday as Robert Lewandowski scored a hat trick for a 5-2 victory over Benfica to extend Bayern's perfect record of four wins from four in the group stage. That took Lewandowski to 81 career goals in his 100th Champions League game.

The game marked the return of Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann after four games away _ including the return 4-0 win over Benfica in Portugal _ after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

During Nagelsmann's absence, Bayern's previously reliable defense collapsed in a 5-0 German Cup loss at Borussia Monchengladbach last week, the club's worst result in more than 40 years.

Against Benfica there were some signs of that sloppiness as poor marking early on allowed Benfica to score a goal narrowly ruled out for offside. It happened again when Bayern failed to deal with a free kick that led to Benfica defender Morato scoring when Bayern led 2-0.

Up front, it was business as usual as Bayern's attacking quartet of Lewandowski, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry combined to dismantle Benfica.

First Coman danced through the Benfica penalty area past two defenders before crossing for Lewandowski to head in the opening goal in the 26th. The Poland striker was the provider six minutes later, squaring the ball for Gnabry to finish in style with a backheel.

Morato's goal and a missed penalty from Lewandowski _ who'd scored his previous seven _ slowed Bayern's progress before halftime. Just after the break, Sane scored Bayern's third with a powerful volley after Alphonso Davies flicked on a pass from Joshua Kimmich. The fourth came on a counterattack with Sane setting up Lewandowski to finish with a chip over the goalkeeper.

Even with Bayern in control of the game and assured of qualifying with two games remaining, there was time for more nerves in defense. Benfica substitute Darwin Nunez scored a consolation goal in the 74th as Bayern's defense was slow to react on a counterattack. Lewandowski finally got his hat trick in the 85th with another chip finish.

Barcelona beat Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 in the other game in the group.

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