The fourth round of six rounds of UEFA Champions League group-stage games might have been passed without much note were it not for Bayern Munich’s emphatic revenge on Arsenal.
Just five of the 32 teams in the competition have determined their group-stage fates thus far. Manchester City, Real Madrid and Zenit St. Petersburg have clinched progression to the Round of 16. Borussia Monchengladbach and Maccabi Tel-Aviv have no chance at advancing to the knockout phase.
The “business as usual” nature of these sandwich games in the group stage usually reduces drama and fireworks, but Bayern Munich is no ordinary team, and its matters concerning Arsenal were unfinished.
The German giant avenged its Oct. 20 loss to Arsenal by humiliating the Gunners at the Allianz Arena. Bayern Munich led 3-0 at halftime on goals from Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and David Alaba. Arjen Robben and Muller then scored after the interval. Arsenal only could muster a single goal, albeit a spectacular one, through Olivier Giroud.
The 5-1 scoreline reflected the scale of Bayern’s domination in a way Arsenal’s 2-0 win two weeks prior didn’t.
History will ignore the fact Arsenal was short of five regular starters for the game and emphasize an epic loss.
Meanwhile, the win was a case of business as usual for Bayern Munich.
To make matters worse for Arsenal, Olympiacos beat Dinamo Zagreb on an 89th minute goal in the other Group F game to move level on points with Bayern Munich atop the group with 9. Surely the Olympiacos fans’ amazing banner had something to do with the result.
Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb have three points, and their chances of progressing to the knockout rounds of European soccer’s elite competition are slimmer than slim.
Who says the middle games are boring and uneventful?
Here are some other things we learned in the third round of Champions League games.
The key to advancement
Real Madrid is among the European elite for a reason. It’s hard to beat.
Paris Saint-Germain outplayed Real Madrid on Tuesday in their Group A rematch, but the Spanish club emerged as the victor thanks to Nacho Fernandez’s fortunate goal, some brave defending and the opponents’ inability to capitalize on scoring chances.
That’s one way Real Madrid has managed to avoid defeat. There have been 18 others … in a row.
A tale of three managers
Premier League riches have lured some of Europe’s leading managers to England in recent years, but Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have come under criticism this season for their teams’ styles of play and results.
Late goals by Wayne Rooney and Willian helped Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively, win their Champions League games and hush their managers’ critics — at least for a moment.
Manchester United and Chelsea both are in good position to advance, but their campaigns and managers compare unfavorably to that of Manchester City and its boss Manuel Pellegrini, who quietly has passed his counterparts in one key statistic.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@ChampionsLeague