ROME (AFP) – Five-time European champions Bayern Munich took a huge step towards qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League with a remarkable 7-1 rout of Roma at a stunned Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday.
Pep Guardiola’s Bundesliga leaders travelled to the Eternal City looking to draw first blood in the first of two consecutive encounters between the Group E rivals – they meet in Munich in a fortnight.
Instead the German champions, who won their last Champions League title in 2013, cemented their credentials as potential winners of this campaign.
Rudi Garcia’s men were a pale shadow of the side that had beaten CSKA Moscow 5-1 at home and battled to a 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
But even Bayern seemed astonished at how easily the Serie A high-flyers crumbled during a spectacular first half that saw the visitors take a 5-0 lead.
Dutch playmaker Arjen Robben opened the scoring with a sublime chip towards the far post of Morgan De Sanctis’s net.
Further strikes from Mario Goetze, Robert Lewandowski, a second from Robben and a Thomas Mueller penalty left Garcia’s men with a mountain to climb.
The first 45 minutes must have struck a chord with Garcia, whose Lille side suffered a 5-0 first-half rout by Bayern during a 6-1 group stage defeat in 2012 in Munich when the German side went on to lift the trophy.
By the final whistle, Roma were sorely reminded of their 7-1 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2007.
Roma remain second in the Group on four points, two points clear of Manchester City who were held to a 2-2 draw by CSKA Moscow, and a repentant Garcia said they still have a chance of qualifying.
Although Roma came fighting back in a more positive second half that saw Gervinho reduce the arrears on 66 minutes, the damage had already been done.
The Bayern rout began in the ninth minute, Robben finding himself in space to the right of goal – with veteran English fullback Ashley Cole outpaced – and firing a delightful left-foot shot past De Sanctis.
Gervinho almost levelled minutes later but a superb Manuel Neuer blocked his strike from just inside the area.
Bayern doubled their lead on 23 minutes when Goetze ran in to fire Mueller’s cheeky flick past the wrong-footed De Sanctis. It was the German World Cup hero’s sixth goal in the last five games for Bayern.