Bayern Munich cruise to knockout stages


Bayern Munich ensured they will finish top of Group E in the Champions League with two games to spare after a 2-0 victory over Roma. While the Bundesliga giants were not as dominant as they were when they romped to a 7-1 win over their Italian opponents, they still did more than enough to claim the three points that ensured they eased into the competition's knockout stages. Franck Ribery opened the scoring seven minutes before half-time while Mario Gotze's second-half strike lifted Pep Guardiola's men to a fourth straight triumph in the group and one that has taken them eight points clear at the top. Roma were thwarted by Manuel Neuer's amazing double save as they finished strongly but it counted for little as they found themselves thoroughly outclassed once again at the Allianz Arena. The Giallorossi had been cut open time and again at the Stadio Olimpico last month in a result that shocked most observers, but Roma were much more alert on Tuesday night. In the early going, Roma's defenders stayed tight to their men with Vassilis Torosidis making valuable blocks to deny Mario Gotze and Juan Bernat. They were by no means attempting to play for a draw though although they did not have much success in the final third of the pitch. Gradually, though, Bayern were able to find some space and Gotze's cross-cum-shot was spilled by goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski although Roma's defenders were able to clear the danger. Skorupski did better by gathering Philip Lahm's shot that bounced just in front of him moments later but was helpless to stop Bayern from taking a 38th-minute lead. David Alaba began the move by rampaging down to the left byline before pulling back to Ribery and the Frenchman tucked the ball into the net off the post. It was the least they deserved and they came close to doubling their advantage just after half-time as Bernat's snap shot was kept out by Skorupski. Alaba and Mehdi Benatia both missed the target from close range but Mario Gotze was able to put Bayern further in front after 64 minutes, stretching to get his toe to the end of Robert Lewandowski's low cross from the left. The home side were nearly out of sight moments later as Lahm's powerful effort sails inches wide of the top corner while at the other end Manuel Neuer proved his calibre as one of the best goalkeepers with a fantastic double save to keep his goal in tact. First good work from Ashley Cole and Gervinho ended with the latter's strike being saved by the legs of Neuer, who then sprung to his feet to deny Radja Nainggolan's effort into the opposite corner. Miralem Pjanic thumped over from just outside the area as Roma came on strong in the closing stages but it proved too little too late.