LONDON — The city where Serge Gnabry’s career stalled now provides the stage for him to shine.
After scoring four goals at Tottenham in the Champions League group stage, the winger added two more at Chelsea on Tuesday to inspire a 3-0 win in the first leg of the round of 16.
No player has scored more goals in London in the Champions League this season.
The 24-year-old forward combined with Robert Lewandowski to tear Chelsea apart in the second half and put Bayern in a commanding position to reach the quarterfinals.
Not bad for a player who left Arsenal in 2016 after only 18 first-team appearances.
A career revitalized at Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim is now in full flow, with 17 goals in all competitions this season.
“I’m happy he is scoring so much in London now and not five years ago,” Bayern forward Thomas Muller said, “because if that were the case he probably wouldn’t be with us now.”
Bayern lost to Chelsea in its home stadium in the 2012 Champions League final, but its subsequent visits to the English team’s home city have producedsome devastating attacking displays.
After lifting its fifth European Cup at Wembley the following season, Bayern has now inflicted the heaviest home Champions League defeats on Chelsea, Arsenal in a 5-1 win in 2017 and Tottenham in a 7-2 rout in October that was lit up by Gnabry’s quadruple strike.
The double at Stamford Bridge came in a three-minute spell at the start of the second half.
“I have a lot of friends here in London, they were in the stadium,” Gnabry said. “They seem to give me extra strength and you saw what happened.”
The Premier League’s fourth-place team struggled to cope with the intensity of the German league leaders but held out until the 51st minute when Gnabry played a one-two with Lewandowski before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
Gnabry started the move that led to the second, releasing Lewandowski on the left flank again and racing forward to receive ball back in the penalty area and placing a calm finish inside the far post.
Alphonso Davies spearheaded the counterattack to create the third, making a lightning run down the left flank and crossing to Lewandowski for a tap-in in the 76th.
Chelsea was completely overwhelmed and had to play with 10 men from the 83rd when Marcos Alonso’s yellow card was upgraded to red after a VAR review on an off-the-ball elbowing of Lewandowski.
“Sometimes you have to be brutally honest about it and they outclassed us. It’s quite sobering,” Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, who lifted the European Cup as a player in 2012 at Bayern. “It’s a real reality check for everyone individually in the dressing room.”
Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, top right, and Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso, center, clear the ball over Bayern’s Thomas Mueller during a first leg, round of 16, Champions League soccer match between Chelsea and Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, England, Tuesday Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Chelsea’s main priority will now be to lock down one of the four guaranteed Champions League qualification places from the Premier League, as it sits only three points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United.
Lampard takes Chelsea to Bournemouth on Saturday.
“I’m more concerned about the big picture here,” he said, “and how quickly we can recover for the weekend firstly in the Premier League.”
The night’s other last-16 match was a closer contest with Barcelona drawing 1-1 at Napoli after Antoine Griezmann canceled out Dries Mertens’ opener for the Italians.
By the time Cristiano Ronaldo arrives in Qatar, the Portugal star might be straddling a fine line between being fresh and simply being not sharp enough to make a telling contribution in what is likely his final World Cup.
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