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Soccer-Penalty dispute fails to slow down Bayern juggernaut

Reuters

By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness was left admiring his team after a superb 5-0 win over Viktoria Plzen, comparing winger Franck Ribery to a juggler as the Champions League holders made it three wins out of three in this year's competition.

Even Arjen Robben's petulant refusal to take a penalty could not overshadow Bayern's scintillating form as the Germans remained undefeated in all three competitions they are involved in this season.

"Our team has been playing outstanding football in the past few weeks," a beaming Hoeness told reporters. "What Franck does with the ball is like (1920s juggler) Rastelli. He just oozes football joy."

Frenchman Ribery struck twice in the Allianz Arena, including a 25th minute penalty that Dutchman Robben refused to take despite being designated to do so by coach Pep Guardiola.

The winger's anger stemmed from Guardiola's decision to allow Thomas Mueller to take a spot kick in Bayern's league win over Mainz 05 on Saturday after Robben had picked up the ball and wanted to take it himself.

The bizarre sight of Guardiola shouting "Arjen, Arjen" from the touchline as Ribery tried to give the ball to a reluctant Robben suggested the breach of discipline would be greeted with serious consequences for the Dutchman.

However, with last season's treble winners looking ominously stronger this campaign, the penalty incident appears nothing more than a footnote to an otherwise convincing performance.

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"I like it when players have character and take the ball and want to shoot the penalty," Guardiola said. "I wanted Arjen to take it," the Spaniard added.

Robben may have spurned the chance to convert a penalty awarded for a foul on him but his overall stellar performance will no doubt overshadow the issue.

Bayern are top of Group D on a maximum nine points and can secure a spot in the round of 16 with victory at Plzen on the next matchday.

"We can play even better but what is important now is to improve in the league," Guardiola said. "Our four games in Europe (including the Super Cup final win over Chelsea) were very good but we can do even better."

Guardiola's assessment will sound like music to his boardroom's ears, with Bayen racking up record revenues, as well as ticket and shirt sales as they aim to become the first team to defend a Champions League crown.

Their form is even more impressive given they have had plenty of injury setbacks with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Goetze only just reaching full fitness.

Holding midfielder and Spain international Javi Martinez is yet to return from a groin injury and so is countryman Thiago Alcantara, a 25 million euro ($34.46 million) signing from Barcelona in the close season.

On Wednesday, Bayern were also missing their first choice central defensive partnership with Dante out injured and Jerome Boateng suspended but the outclassed Czech's solitary shot on goal proved their absence went virtually unnoticed.

"It does not matter who is playing because the amount of quality on the pitch is unparalleled in Europe," Hoeness said.

($1 = 0.7256 euros) (Editing by John O'Brien)

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