ATHENS (AP) — Bayern Munich exploited a brief lapse in AEK Athens’ determined defense to score twice in two minutes for a 2-0 win in the Champions League, easing pressure on the Bundesliga champions and coach Niko Kovac.
Shaking off a mistake-prone first half, Javi Martinez and Robert Lewandowski struck in the 61st and 63rd minutes at the Olympic Stadium for Bayern’s second victory in Group E, as AEK suffered its third defeat.
“We knew the goals would come. We pressed, tired them out and it worked,” Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said. “After their two goals, their morale suffered and we went on to win. … We’re in a better position but we’re still making mistakes.”
Bayern stayed on the attack for most of the night but center-backs Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Vasilis Lambropoulos stopped them from creating chances.
While keeping AEK’s back line busy, Arjen Robben had produced little threat until his shot helped break the deadlock. It struck a wall of defenders, and Martinez slotted in the rebound.
Lewandowski silenced the 55,000 home fans two minutes later. Standout Serge Gnabry flicked the ball to Rafinha, who set up the Poland striker for the tap-in.
“We had a good first half but we were missing the finish. We insisted in our effort and in the end we prevailed and that’s what’s important,” Robben said. “We took our chances when we could. We needed that win.”
Bayern outshot the Greeks 2-1 and held two-third of possession.
Bayern’s players have struggled to show their usual domestic dominance this season, and visibly relaxed after the goals. Lewandowski narrowly missed a third in the 67th when goalkeeper Vassilis Barkas scrambled to stop his effort on the goal line.
Germany striker Thomas Mueller played for the last 15 minutes but made little impact.
“The players stood up very well to such a great side but after those two goals it was hard to fight back,” AEK coach Marios Ouzounidis. “But I’m proud of their performance. They were very professional throughout the game.”
AEK won Greece’s championship last season after fighting back from bankruptcy and relegation to amateur football in 2013, and appeared delighted to be back in European competition despite Tuesday’s result.
“It would be silly to compare ourselves with such a major team, but we were also a little unlucky to concede when we did. The players were a little tired and were late in falling back — so we had a small gap in our reflexes,” AEK midfielder Kostas Galanopoulos said.
“But we did play well and now we’ll see what we can do.”
By DEREK GATOPOULOS , Associated Press