Bayern Munich maintained their 100% win record in this season’s Champions League as a Serge Gnabry brace and yet another Robert Lewandowski goal sealed a comprehensive 3-0 away win over Frank Lampard’s Chelsea side in west London.
The result sees the Blues with a mountain to climb in the second leg next month, on March 18 in Munich. They will be without Jorginho, who picked up a suspension after being booked for dissent – while his midfield teammate N’Golo Kanté (adductor) remains doubtful too.
The scores were still level at half-time, though the hosts largely had second-choice goalkeeper Willy Caballero to thank for that. He denied goal-hungry Lewandowski on a few occasions with big saves, while Kingsley Coman came close early on and Thomas Muller saw a well-taken header crash off the crossbar.
In the second-half, things were completely different and Bayern’s persistence paid off. Chelsea suffered a double blow with no warning just minutes after the restart: Jorginho booked after remonstrating with referee Clement Turpin, before Lewandowski and Gnabry combined to devastating effect. Twice in the space of four minutes.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s slip proved costly to gift an advancing Gnabry space in transition. He exchanged passes with Lewandowski, who was unselfish and spatially aware – slipping the ball back across the box. From seemingly nothing, suddenly they couldn’t miss.
The same thing happened minutes later, as Lewandowski towered above Azpilicueta to head forwards near the centre-circle and accelerated forward on the counter-attack. Andreas Christensen dragged out wide, he slipped through a subtle forward pass and Gnabry showed good composure to slot into the bottom corner with Caballero rooted to the spot.
A promising first-half soon turned into a nightmare second for Chelsea, but it wasn’t over yet. Alphonso Davies made countless marauding runs forward but finally ended the game as a contest after 75 minutes. He left Christensen for dead down the left-and side, teeing up Lewandowski and the Polish marksman made no mistake at Caballero’s far post to score his 64th Champions League goal.
Marcos Alonso was sent off after Turpin’s VAR pitchside review for violent conduct – landing a deliberate elbow and off-the-ball whack on Lewandowski rather typified what had turned into a frustrating night for Lampard’s men, who were taught a footballing lesson at times and it seems their promising UCL campaign appears to be over for another season.
Without further ado, here’s a look at five hits and flops from a memorable first-leg encounter at Stamford Bridge:
#5 Flop: Marcos Alonso
It was a frustrating game all-round from Chelsea’s perspective: failure to create enough nor retain possession effectively in the first-half, followed by a second-half blitz of counter-attacking brilliance – which was preventable, had players done their homework.
But for a player with Alonso’s experience to be sent off late on, after a needless display of petulance, reiterates why Emerson had a staggered run in the side and further amplifies supporters longing for a better left-back.
Chelsea’s defenders were all busy to varying degrees, depending on who exactly they were matching up against. Alonso did his bit defensively, with one notable diligent interception in the first-half to halt Coman near the byline.
He made three clearances and interceptions, completed two dribbles and a tackle too. However, the Spaniard won just 5 of 11 total duels while it felt typical the 29-year-old lost possession more times (11) than any other teammate.
Sending Benjamin Pavard sliding across the turf, he proceeded to fire a promising effort straight at Manuel Neuer late in the first-half, after great work by Mateo Kovacic. That was as good as it got, unfortunately.
#4 Hit: Alphonso Davies
Having to balance defence with attack and learn contrasting responsibilities as a key part of an ambitious Bayern side, Alphonso Davies again displayed why he’s more than up for the task at Stamford Bridge.
He made a handful of important defensive interventions and while he lacks the defensive-minded brain to spot potential danger seconds before it occurs, his blistering acceleration more than makes up for that flaw. Mason Mount and co found that out, the hard way.
If you’ve watched the Bavarians this season, it’s nothing new. He might switch off or not stick tight enough to his man all the time, but even with a 5-10m head start, Davies effortlessly recovers almost every time while crucially maintaining the composure not to dive in and give away silly fouls near dangerous areas.
His frightening pace and deceptive levels of strength is why stats show he only had to make one clearance and tackle over the 90 minutes, because for large periods of this encounter, he was either retaining possession (91.2% success, 62 total passes) alongside David Alaba and Thiago Alcantara or spreading his wings in the final third.
He won eight of ten duels contested, six successful dribbles and completed two key passes too – including the marauding run which resulted in Lewandowski’s close-range finish. With a quartet of Alaba-Davies-Thiago-Gnabry down the left-hand side, Chelsea simply couldn’t cope. It’s no wonder they all flourished.
#3 Flop: Ross Barkley
It’s displays like this which make Ross Barkley such a divisive figure in west London. For the record, he was disappointing on this occasion – though that’s not through all of his own doing. Bayern are a team capable of monopolising possession, waiting patiently and forcing opponents into mistakes.
With injuries and depth proving another unwelcome hindrance for Barkley’s progression, it seemed typical Lampard deployed him in a midfield trio alongside Jorginho and Mount: one is a deep-lying playmaker, the other continues staking his claim as a creative-minded No.10.
Something has got to give. Barkley was starved of possession for large periods and whenever on-the-ball, seemed to have opponents swarming him – which saw him relinquish possession cheaply and often in frustrating areas, as evidenced by the crowd’s discontent.
He completed one of three attempted dribbles, had 22 touches and made just seven complete passes to boot before Lampard’s double sub on the hour mark.
#2 Hit: Serge Gnabry
As he humbly agreed during in his post-match interview, Gnabry clearly loves returning to London. This season alone, he has six goals in two games for the Bavarians in the capital, which seems fitting given his previous ties to Arsenal.
He now has five goals in three games and the 24-year-old will be hoping his upturn in goal contribution continues, having stalled through injury and scarce minutes towards the latter stages of 2019, into January this year.
So with friends aplenty watching him at Stamford Bridge, he came alive in a second-half where Chelsea – just like Tottenham – simply couldn’t cope. He combined well with Davies and Thiago, but his seemingly telepathic connection alongside Lewandowski in transition was brilliant to watch.
Despite completing just one of five dribbles attempted and winning 7 of 16 duels before receiving a warm reception when replaced late on, Gnabry delivered an honest off-the-ball shift and was unfortunate not to earn his hat-trick too.
Blazed a volley wide, watched a deflected effort flash over, Gnabry didn’t stop going for the jugular. With a joint game-high tackles (5) alongside Kovacic and two interceptions, he proved pivotal again and continues to develop a blossoming reputation in Europe.
#1 Hit: Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski was the X factor that Chelsea so desperately need, in order to jump from Europa League winners to bonafide Champions League contenders. So while Bayern’s star man was causing problems early on, you could hear confusion in commentators’ voice. Why was Olivier Giroud ball-watching so often and how exactly could he affect the game properly?
To his credit, there were brief flashes of what you’d expect from a top-class striker. Instinctive link-up play, doing well to fashion half-chances with your back to goal is easier said than done – not least against Bayern’s three-man backline.
But ultimately, he and substitute Tammy Abraham were nullified by a side who did their due diligence and were prepared: balls into the box were either cleared altogether, or those same players weren’t in the best positions to receive probing passes near Manuel Neuer’s goal.
Even a hint of indecisiveness was pounced upon by Bayern defenders, as evidenced from Abraham’s ineffective cameo – this was a different level entirely to the rigours of top-flight football. Lewandowski meanwhile, would have been frustrated not to have earned a first-half brace but was facing a motivated goalkeeper in Willy Caballero, making his first UCL appearance since March 2017.
Crucially, he kept his head up and turned creator with two clever defence-splitting passes early in the second-half. The combination play between him and Gnabry was beautiful as it was simplistic, Chelsea spun out of shape on the counter.
Then as you’d expect, he turned scorer to apply the definitive touch on Davies’ brilliant solo run – sending Bayern home with a comfortable 3-0 first leg lead. Precisely the type of display we’ve come to expect from the world’s best striker.
Stats’ source: WhoScored and SofaScore