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Bundesliga

Width, pressing and Thiago: Bayern deliver, right when they need it

Right when they needed it, Bayern delivered their best performance of the season to tear their Portuguese visitors apart. DW's Jonathan Harding takes a look at how they did it.

Much like Borussia Dortmund did in their spectacular Champions League campaign that ended in a final defeat to the Bavarians, Bayern enforced a monstrous pressing game right from the start. Porto were cramped and although it was clear they came to play on the break, they didn't even see enough of the ball to dream of using it themselves.

Bayern pinned them down and feasted on Porto like a lion on a wounded, flaying animal trying desperately to break free. After each goal, almost immediately the ball was back hovering around the edge of the box. There wasn't even enough time to see how Porto lost possession. It soon felt like that was just a part of the game.

Unlike in Portugal, Bayern played with width, drawing Porto out and adding more variety to their attack. Thomas Müller did what he does best - roaming freely around, looking for something to feed off. Xabi Alonso shielded the back three and supported the midfield, while Thiago orchestrated the feast in a majestic solo performance. Both Philipp Lahm and Juan Bernat delivered remarkable performances on the flanks, which in turn allowed Robert Lewandowski more space in the box. The absence of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery does have its benefits.

I remember Lahm delivering a record number of assists from right back before the Guardiola era. Granted Bernat delivered the telling cross for Thiago, but Lahm's involvement in the third goal was a microcosm of his performance on the night. 27 passes ended in a fantastic first-time pass from Thiago to Lahm, who crossed on the bounce for Müller to flick on for Lewandowski to leap and head home. It was a games-console goal and it was no surprise that the first three goals came from headers.

Something else Bayern did in Munich that they didn't do in Portugal was gage when and where to speed up the process of spreading the play and then move swiftly towards goal. Again, the third goal showed that superbly but so did Lewandowski's second - his patience despite pressure in the box showed they could slow things down when they needed to.

The second half was an evening walk in Munich, with Porto largely still reeling from their first-half hammering. Bayern too lost their way a bit, something Pep himself mentioned after the game but with the contest long over, it mattered little. It did reveal though that other than heavy legs, transitioning out of transitional play remains one of the greatest challenges the best teams in modern football face.

There will be talk about whether Holger Badstuber should have seen red for his clumsy challenge, and a few what ifs had Jackson Martinez's shot soon after his goal had gone in, but fortune plays a part in all great performances. And delivering the type of ruthless performance that Bayern did tonight makes fortune's role a little less relevant.

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