By Karolos Grohmann
A meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday could not have been timed better for Bayern Munich as the German champions capped a two-day stay in Rome in style at the Vatican following Tuesday’s 7-1 demolition of Roma in the Champions League.
The Bavarians have now firmly established themselves as one of the frontrunners for Europe’s top club competition this season, after scoring five goals in the first 35 minutes on their way to their European record away win which left them top of Group E with maximum points from three games.
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola completely outclassed his Roma counterpart in every aspect of the game as Bayern, led by Dutchman Arjen Robben, who netted twice, moved up to nine points, five ahead of second-placed Roma.
Before leaving the Italian capital, Bayern met the pontiff at the Vatican, with the football-loving Argentine head of the Roman Catholic Church saying he was ‘surprised by the result’.
“You delivered a wonderful game of football yesterday,” he told the team on Wednesday morning, Bayern said in a statement.
It was indeed a spectacle what Bayern delivered against the Italians with Robben heaping praise on the team’s tactical preparation.
“I am still convinced that Roma are a tough team but we really must thank our coaching team because they prepared us outstandingly for this game,” Robben said.
“I have never seen anything like it, at least not against such a strong team like Roma. They had no answer to our attacking game and that quickly decided the match.”
Guardiola made three changes to the team that crushed Werder Bremen 6-0 in the league on Saturday but they were equally dominant.
The undefeated Bavarians have now won six of eight league games while also winning every group game so far in Europe along with their first round German Cup win as they set their sights again on a treble of titles after 2013.
Their flawless defensive operation which included former Roma star Mehdi Benatia in a rare start this season, as well as their attacking game, showed Guardiola was right to insist they would be improving only gradually after a long summer for many of his players.
With winger Franck Ribery back fit and on target on Tuesday and several more players, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, expected to return in the coming weeks, Bayern will only be getting stronger.
With nine points in the bag, the first target of the season to make it past the group stage of the Champions League looks to have been largely accomplished.
“This was a huge step into the right direction,” said captain Philipp Lahm. “Especially with Manchester City drawing 2-2 against CSKA Moscow. But we are not through just yet. In two weeks we need to win again and then it will look really good.”