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Lewandowski hat-trick steers Bayern into knockout stage

Lewandowski hat-trick steers Bayern into knockout stage

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski in action with Benfica's Lucas Verissimo. (Photo: REUTERS/Andreas Gebert)

MUNICH, Germany: Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick, set up another goal and missed a penalty on his 100th Champions League appearance as they crushed Benfica 5-2 on Tuesday to cruise into the knockout stage with two Group E matches to spare.

The 2020 world player of the year headed home his first goal in the 26th minute and chipped in another just past the hour after also setting up Serge Gnabry for a sensational backheel flick in the 32nd.

He did miss a penalty in first half stoppage time but sealed his treble in the 85th minute. It was his 81st goal in Europe's elite club competition.

"I do not know if it was the perfect game because I did miss a penalty," Lewandowski said. "But better to miss early than late in the game. Luckily we scored several more goals and got the three points."

"I did not get the ball often in the first 20 minutes but you have to stay patent as a striker. To be honest I never thought I would ever play so many games in the Champions League and score so many goals."

Benfica cut the deficit before the break with Morato's 38th minute header, the first goal conceded by Bayern in their four Champions League matches, but a superb Leroy Sane shot early in the second half killed off hopes of a comeback.

The visitors scored again in the 75th through Darwin Nunez.

Bayern are top on 12 points following their fourth win in the group and record-equalling 17 goals, with Benfica on four. Barcelona moved into second place on six after winning 1-0 at Dynamo Kyiv, in last with one point. The top two advance to the knockout stage.

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

Lewandowski punished them not long after, heading in a Kingsley Coman cross at the far post to open his account.

Before Benfica had time to recover, Bayern, who a week ago suffered their heaviest German Cup defeat ever with a 5-0 loss to Borussia Moenchengladbach, struck again as Lewandowski set up Gnabry whose backheel left keeper Odisseas Vlachodimos frozen.

The visitors pulled a goal back when Brazilian Morato rose to head home seven minutes before the break and they grew more hopeful when Lewandowski's tame penalty was saved by Vlachodimos in stoppage time before the interval.

But the hosts moved into turbo drive after halftime with Sane thundering in a half-volley to make it 3-1 before setting up Lewandowski for a delightful chip over the keeper in the 61st.

The hosts were caught napping with Darwin Nunez pulling a goal back with 15 minutes left. But Lewandowski was not yet done, bagging his fourth Champions League hat-trick in the 85th to book Bayern's spot in the last 16.

Source: Reuters

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