Bayern Munich survived the snowy conditions in Moscow to beat CSKA 3-1 and set a new record of 10 successive victories in the Champions League. A goal in each half, from Arjen Robben and then Mario Gotze set Bayern on their way before the teams exchanged penalties through Keisuke Honda and Thomas Muller.
The holders’ place in the last 16 had already been secured, but this win means that they are likely to just need to avoid a heavy defeat to Manchester City in the final round of fixtures in order to top Group D. It is hard to envisage that scenario not panning out as Bayern continue to march on under Pep Guardiola, following their big win over major domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund at the weekend.
It did take them a little time to get going in the freezing conditions in the Russia Capital as the already eliminated CSKA made a good start. But the Bavarians soon got into their stride and were in front in the 17th minute. Muller got to the byline on the left and pulled the ball back intelligently for Robben to finish impressively first time at the near post.
The one disappointing aspect of the evening for Bayern then arrived when the master of versatility Philipp Lahm was forced off with an injury. Still, Bayern could have gone into the break with a bigger lead had Dante not failed to make contact with Robben’s free-kick.
CSKA came back into the match at the end of the first half, but missed a succession of chances. The Nigerian speedster Ahmed Musa failed to take his opportunity to get a shot in when moving through on goal. The biggest culprit, though, was Honda, who was unable to take advantage of two clear opportunities at the start of the second half.
First, after getting clear through into the box following a long ball forward, he dawdled waiting for a teammate to arrive before finally casually trying to take the ball past Manuel Neuer but having it stripped off of him by the mammoth hands of the Germany number one. Just moments later he failed to make contact with a volley right in front of goal.
Instead, it was left to Gotze to show CSKA how it’s done. Full of confidence after his goal against his former club on Saturday, the midfielder cut in from the right on the edge of the box, beating two players with some lightening footwork, before producing a left-footed strike into the corner.
Thankfully, from his point of view, Honda was soon gifted a third chance to finally get on the scoresheet. The award of a penalty for a handball by Dante was harsh, with the defender having his arm at his side and making no movement toward the ball. Regardless, Honda sent Neuer the wrong way form the spot to in part atone for his earlier profligacy.
That might have been the cue for a nervy last half-hour for the visitors. Yet, they were soon to reestablish their two-goal advantage with the game’s second penalty in three minutes. This one was clearer cut, with Robben clearly tripped by Georgy Schennikov after getting first to the rebound following Gotze’s strike against the post. Muller replicated Honda’s cool finish from the spot.
The victory had been sealed, although to their credit CSKA kept pushing forward and were unlucky to hit the bar through Zoran Tosic. One suspects, however, that Bayern were always capable of finding another gear.