Jersey Swap: Gedson Fernandes
Through the entirety of the first half, Benfica was unable to gain any foothold in the attacking third. The 19-year-old came on at halftime as part of the Portuguese plan to crawl back from a 3-0 deficit. Just 38 seconds later, he was able to blow past Jerome Boateng and net a calm finish past Manuel Neuer. For the rest of the game, he didn’t participate in much else, but to be fair, neither did any of his teammates; they only forced one save out of Manuel Neuer.
Tip of the Cap: Joshua Kimmich
With major rotational issues in midfield, Niko Kovac was again forced to have his regular right-back step up to the number 6. While Kimmich performed very well there, it was actually somewhere else where he impressed. He whipped in two beautiful corners that found Robert Lewandowski’s head both times to supply his team with an important brace of goals. Kimmich continued to be a passing maestro, completing more than 90% of his passes, and cut down on his giveaways in crucial areas of the pitch.
Golf Clap: Franck Ribery
The 35-year-old Frenchman has been heavily criticized as of late for his lackluster performances. He had looked a step slow in nearly all of his penetrating runs this season, and it seemed as though we had seen the last of the Ribery we all loved. That all changed this game when he was able to burst past Benfica defenders into open space and create decent chances. He wasn’t able to finish such a chance until finally in the 76th minute, when he combined with Alaba down the left side and pounced on the cutback to send the ball into the bottom corner. This was his first goal for Bayern since March of last season, and with all the injuries plaguing the team, a rejuvenated Ribery is exactly what we need.
Standing Ovation: Robert Lewandowski
In his 101st Champions League appearance, Bayern’s number 9 was able to write his name in the history books. He became the third-fastest player to reach 50 Champions League goals, only behind Lionel Messi and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Even though he let his teammate Arjen Robben dominate in open play, Lewandowski was still able to shine with two goals from corners. A lot of Bayern’s set pieces have been lacking lately, so it was good to see two of them find the back of the net.
Meister of the Match: Arjen Robben
Like Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben has also been subject to unrelenting criticism, claiming he no longer can contribute for the German Champions. He made his feelings known about that blasphemy straight away with two goals in the first half hour. Both goals brought the spectators back in time as he cut inside to his left, put defenders in his rear-view mirror, and found the top shelf. If he had done this once, it would have been simply a good goal. But, when the second time rolled around, I think I speak for all of us when I say that shivers were sent down my spine. Robben clearly showed us that he still has some fuel left in the tank and can produce moments of magic like his former self.