By Peter Herrnreiter
The 2nd half of the first group stage in the 2010-2011 Champions League campaign got underway with German champions Bayern Munich capturing all three points in a Group E tie away against Romanian side CFR Cluj. Bayern, who have been struggling domestically of late due to an injury crisis, clinched a spot in the next round thanks to a Mario Gomez hat trick and have the opportunity to take the top spot with a point from either of their next two matches.
With 8 members of the squad out through injury, Dutch manager Louis van Gaal has had the opportunity to test his side’s depth the last few weeks and not surprisingly, the purchases of the last few seasons has paid off dividends as the skill and talent of Munich’s bench was on stellar display in Transylvania.
While the match began in a slow fashion, both sides did have a number of chances at both ends, through it was in form striker Mario Gomes who shot the Germans to a 1-0 lead in only the 12th minute of play after collecting a rebound off of Cluj keeper Eduard Stancoiu.
The visiting crowd of 1,350 had even more to cheer about after Gomes netted his second of the match and Bayern’s insurance goal in the 24th minute through some brilliant thinking on the part of midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Though, while on the defensive end of a strong Bayern offensive push, Cluj striker Lacina Traore was able to slither through the shaky Bayern backline to give the Romanians of glimmer of hope. The quick counter attacks should have paid off, however the German net minder Hans-Joerg Butt held his ground and held the home side scoreless going into the half.
In the second period of play, Cluj seemed to be able to breathe life into their sails as Roberto De Zerbi and Felice Piccolo had excellent chances to capitalize on some Bayern defensive mistakes, as De Zebi’s chance was cleared from the line by Daniel Van Buyten and Piccolo’s shot hitting the post.
Fortunately enough however for the visitors, Schweinsteiger and Gomez teamed up once again to add Bayern and Gomez’s third of the match and in the 90th, 2010 World Cup Golden Boot winner Thomas Mueller added a brace to seal the victory and the much disserved three points.
Cluj, who are mathematically still alive, will hope Bayern can claim all three points again next round against Roma. The Romanians have only three points from four contests while Bayern have set a new team best for best start of a Champions League campaign ever with four straight wins.