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AFP
February 25, 2021

Bayern rout Lazio, Chelsea pip Atletico

Sports

AFP
February 25, 2021

ROME: Holders Bayern Munich brushed off their recent poor domestic form by throwing down a Champions League marker with an emphatic 4-1 win at Lazio in Tuesday’s last-16 first leg to take a “huge step” towards the quarter-finals.

Robert Lewandowski gave Bayern an early lead before 17-year-old Jamal Musiala scored his first Champions League goal on only his fourth appearance in Europe.

Stuttgart-born Musiala, who turns 18 Friday, is now the youngest English goalscorer in Champions League history.

A Leroy Sane strike gave Bayern a three-goal half-time cushion at the Stadio Olimpico before Francesco Acerbi scored an own goal just after the break.

Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio need a near miracle in the return game in Munich on March 17 to reach the last eight.

Flick pulled a surprise by starting Musiala in place of Thomas Mueller, who was sidelined after testing positive for Covid-19.

Benjamin Pavard was also out with coronavirus, while midfielders Corentin Tolisso and Serge Gnabry were both missing with thigh injuries.

Despite dropping five points in the Bundesliga last week and bringing a depleted squad to Rome, Bayern needed less than nine minutes before Lewandowski pounced on a mistake in the Lazio defence.

The Poland star snapped up a weak back-pass by Mateo Musacchio — who was subbed off soon after — to dribble around Lazio’s veteran goalkeeper Pepe Reina and fire into an empty net.

It was Lewandowski’s 72nd Champions League goal, taking him solo third on the all-time list ahead of Real Madrid great Raul.

England Under-21 midfielder Musiala, who has reportedly opted to play for Germany’s senior side, then showed maturity beyond his years to calmly drill past Reina to make it 2-0 on 24 minutes.

The lead was extended just before half-time when Kingsley Coman’s shot was parried and Sane tapped in the rebound.

There were two goals in the space of three minutes just after the break, with Acerbi turning the ball into his own net as Bayern counter-attacked from a Lazio corner.

Meanwhile, Olivier Giroud’s magnificent bicycle kick broke Atletico Madrid’s resistance and earned Chelsea a crucial 1-0 victory.

Giroud’s acrobatic strike was initially ruled out for offside but stood after VAR showed Mario Hermoso had got the final touch, delivering a huge blow to Atletico’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.

Diego Simeone’s side had put on a typically disciplined defensive performance until that point but Giroud’s moment of genius means they will have to score in London on March 17 if they are to avoid an early exit.

It also continues a worrying dip for Atletico, whose lead in La Liga is also under threat after one win in four matches.

“If you’d said to me in September we’d lose this first leg 1-0 and be top of the league, I’d have signed for that for sure,” said Simeone.

“The results aren’t going for us so we have to work, work, work and work.”

Chelsea, meanwhile, passed their biggest test since Tuchel was appointed at the end of January, backing up a strong run against lesser lights in the Premier League with a polished display against one of Europe’s elite.