Bayern Munich, looking for a competition record run of wins, dispatched CSKA Moscow 3-1 in early evening Champions League action. In the later game, Bayer Leverkusen were demolished 5-0 at home by Manchester United.
As snow whirled around the Arena Khimki stadium, a begloved Bayern side looked to warm fans' hearts with a record 10 consecutive wins in the UEFA Champions League. At first though, Bayern seemed to find the trail to goal as cold as the Moscow evening air.
Despite a better share of possession, Bayern weren't really in it when it came to attacking. At least, that was, until 17 minutes in when Thomas Müller found himself free on the left, toeing the ball back to a more central Arjen Robben. The Dutchman finished with aplomb, slicing the ball with his left foot into the bottom left corner.
For the rest of the first half, Bayern found themselves trying to build up their lead by pulling apart the Moscow defense. The Russian side had other ideas though, staying resolutely in shape.
Perhaps the cold contributed to an early problem for Bayern as captain Philipp Lahm was forced out of the game with a muscle injury, Thiago Alcantara replacing him.
The sub, along with Müller, Toni Kroos and David Alaba probed and pulled at the Russian defense, but couldn't create chances with sufficient time and space in front of goal. And there was a warning that Moscow could upset the Bayern party when Keisuke Honda placed an inch-perfect pass to Ahmed Musa.
The second half saw Moscow at their best, spurred on in particular by the efforts of the impressive Honda. The Japanese midfielder found himself one-on-one with Manuel Neuer in the 50th minute, but hesitated just a fraction of a second too long and had the ball smothered by the keeper.
Bayern's attack continued to falter against the Moscow defense. Sometimes, though, all it takes is a moment of individual brilliance, in this case provided on 56 minutes by Mario Götze latching onto a diagonal pass from Alcantara. Götze danced past no fewer than four defenders before finishing, sublimely, left footed.
Russian efforts pay off
Undeterred, Moscow plugged away and had their efforts rewarded on 62 minutes. Bayern's Dante was shown a yellow card for handball before Honda stepped up for a much-deserved chance to take the spot kick. A soft effort, it was still enough to send Neuer the wrong way.
It only seemed right that the Russians should get their noses back into it, but the one-goal difference wasn't to last long. Moscow conceded a penalty at the other end in the 65th minute, thanks to a foul by Georgi Schennikov on Robben. Thomas Müller rolled a bobbling ball past the keeper.
The flurry of goals came abruptly to an end, despite a succession of chances at both ends of the pitch. Bayern, emerging from the game as 3-1 winners, can now reflect on their record-breaking achievements while also sitting pretty, three points clear of second-place Manchester City in Group D.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola praised his players’ performance in the icy conditions. "It was difficult because the players had no grip," said Guardiola. "But over 90 minutes we were better than our opponents. Getting ten wins in a row is very hard and I am proud of my players, the club and everyone involved."
Seeking revenge, Leverkusen find humiliation
Later in the evening, Leverkusen were looking to avenge their away 4-2 September defeat to Group A opponents Manchester United.
It was a bad day at the office for Leverkusen, who will now hope United can do them a favor against Donetsk
Leverkusen boss Sami Hyypia complained that his side had suffered "stage fright" in the first meeting. With a chance to top the group, the German side couldn’t afford another attack of nerves on German soil.
Both sides seemed to have the jitters at first, with Son Heung-Min the first to fluff his lines in front of the Manchester United goal after just three minutes. It was the first of a series of missed chances for the South Korean.
Meanwhile, ex-Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa looked lively for the visitors, drifting around in search of space.
Nani came close in the sixteenth minute, shooting over after taking a promising lay-off from Ryan Giggs. While Leverkusen almost opened the scoring in the 21st minute through Stefan Kiessling, a well-timed tackle from Jonny Evans may well have been the game's key moment.
A subsequent corner for Leverkusen proved to be their undoing as United attacked on the counter, Kagawa capitalizing on a mistake by Reinartz. Striker Wayne Rooney found the ball, floating it over sweetly to Valencia who tapped in at the back post.
United’s second - in fact scored by Leverkusen’s Emir Spahic - also came courtesy of Wayne Rooney, whipping in a curling free kick with which the hapless defender agonizingly connected.
The Leverkusen players' heads seemed to dip as they struggled to find an answer. They emerged a little more promising after the break.
United looked closest to conceding in the 60th minute; a corner from Castro being met by Stefan Reinartz and headed against the post. Spahic sought to redeem himself with a follow-up that also found the woodwork. It was to end Leverkusen's most concentrated spell of pressure as the nightmare wore on.
Leverkusen floodgates open
United's third came in the 66th minute, as Patrick Evra flicked down a Ryan Giggs corner. Wayne Rooney's subsequent effort was blocked by Leno, only allowing Evans to tap in from close range.
Any attempt at damage limitation by Leverkusen did not pay dividends. A fourth for the visitors came in the the 77th when Kagawa made a precision chip into the box for Wayne Rooney. The England striker sent the ball past a helpless Leno, for United’s Chris Smalling to poke in with ease.
Leverkusen’s misery was capped in the 88th minute, as Gigg placed a perfect long ball over the Leverkusen defense for Nani to dink around the keeper and home to goal.
"It was a lesson for us," said Leverkusen coach Sami Hyppia. "United exploited our mistakes. I hope that this is an experience that will serve us well in the future and that we learn from it. Until the second goal, it wasn't such a bad game. Then, we lost belief."
The win leaves Leverkusen third place in Group A on seven points, one behind Shakhtar Donetsk who thrashed Real Sociedad 4-0.