Champions League: Robert Lewandowski’s hat-trick puts Bayern in knockout phase

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The 2020 World Player of the Year headed his first goal in the 26th minute and netted another just after the hour after also preparing Serge Gnabry for a sensational heel kick in the 32nd.

Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski celebrates his side’s fifth goal during the Champions League Group E game between Bayern Munich and Benfica Lisbon in Munich, Germany on Tuesday November 2, 2021 (AP Photo / Matthias Schrader)

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick, scored another goal and missed a penalty in his 100th Champions League appearance as he crushed Benfica 5-2 on Tuesday to advance to the knockout stage with two matches in the group E to play.

The 2020 World Player of the Year headed his first goal in the 26th minute and netted another just after the hour after also preparing Serge Gnabry for a sensational heel kick in the 32nd. He missed a penalty in stoppage time in the first half but sealed his hat-trick in the 85th minute. It was his 81st goal in the elite club competition in Europe.

“I don’t know if it was the perfect game because I missed a penalty,” Lewandowski said. “But better to miss early than late in the game. Fortunately, we scored several more goals and got all three points. “” I didn’t have the ball often in the first 20 minutes but you have to keep it short as a striker. To be honest, I never thought I’d play so many Champions League games and score so many goals.

“Benfica reduced the deficit before the break with a header from Morato in the 38th minute, the first goal conceded by Bayern in their four Champions League games, but a superb shot from Leroy Sane early in the second half wiped out hopes for a return. The visitors scored again in the 75th thanks to Darwin Nunez. Bayern lead with 12 points after their fourth win in the group and a record 17 goals, Benfica with four. Barcelona moved up to second out of six after winning 1-0 at Dynamo Kyiv, last with a point. The first two advance to the knockout phase.

Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski, left, directs the ball to score his side’s first goal in the Champions League Group E game between Bayern Munich and Benfica Lisbon in Munich, Germany on Tuesday, November 2, 2021. (AP Photo / Matthias Schrader)

With Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann back on the bench after a two-week absence due to COVID-19 infection, it was the Portuguese who got off to a better start when they put the ball in the net but the effort was deemed offside.

Lewandowski punished them soon after, heading for a Kingsley Coman cross at the far post to open his account. Before Benfica had time to recover, Bayern, who suffered their heaviest loss in the German Cup a week ago with a 5-0 defeat to Borussia Moenchengladbach, struck again as Lewandowski put up Gnabry whose back heel left goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos frozen.

The visitors fended off a goal when Brazilian Morato came home seven minutes before the break and they regained hope when Lewandowski’s penalty was saved by Vlachodimos in stoppage time before the break.

But the hosts went turbo after halftime with Sane thundering in a half end to make it 3-1 before preparing Lewandowski for a delicious chip on the keeper in the 61st. The hosts were caught napping with Darwin Nunez shooting a goal with 15 minutes left. But Lewandowski was not yet finished, completing his fourth Champions League hat trick in the 85th to reserve Bayern’s place in the round of 16.

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