Bayern were insipid in sub-zero temperatures, and although they took the lead through Douglas Costa, the hosts levelled through the superb Sardar Azmoun before the break.
Rostov then led twice, through Dmitri Poloz’s penalty and Christian Noboa’s free-kick, with a Juan Bernat equaliser sandwiched in-between, but despite unleashing a mountain of pressure, Bayern couldn’t get back in the game.
The result leaves them three points behind Atlético Madrid, ahead of their game later on Wednesday against PSV Eindhoven.
Bayern looking to keep pace with group leaders
Bayern were already through to the knockout stages after winning three of their first four matches, including the 5-0 victory over Rostov at the Allianz Arena in September. But defeat against Atlético left them still trailing behind in the group.
They were beaten 1-0 by Borussia Dortmund at the weekend, and Carlo Ancelotti made six changes from the team that played that game. One was enforced, with the injured Manuel Neuer replaced by Sven Ulreich. Holger Badstuber was given a first start since February, whilst Bernat, Renato Sanches, Rafinha and Costa also started.
Rostov’s hopes of reaching the last 16 were over, but they still had hope of catching PSV in the race for a UEFA Europa League place. They had drawn 0-0 with FC Rubin Kazan at the weekend, and named an unchanged side.
Azmoun catches Bayern out
Bayern naturally looked to dominate, but they had a big scare early on. A superb diagonal pass from César Navas found Azmoun. Ulreich rushed out, got into a mix-up with Badstuber, and the Iranian striker headed the ball over him. It needed Bernat to chase back and clear to prevent it from crossing the line.
At the other end, Bayern were struggling against the deeply-entrenched Rostov defence, but the chances were starting to come. Robert Lewandowski had a shot put out for a corner, with which a Badstuber header forced Soslan Dzhanaev into an awkward save. He also had to divert a Sanches shot, before Costa put a chance over.
Rostov’s threat was mainly coming from the direct route. From another long ball Azmoun fought his way clear past a labouring Badstuber, but gave away a free kick in the process. Then from the same route he was through again, but was this time denied in the box by Ulreich.
Costa had looked like the one Bayern player who was causing Rostov real problems though, and it was no surprise that it was him who scored their opening goal. A cross from Sanches was initially kept out, but Navas’s clearance went straight to the Brazilian, who punished his mistake with a curling shot into the back of the net.
That goal didn’t open the floodgates though, and in fact by half time Rostov were level. Costa this time was to blame, giving the ball away to Poloz, with Jérôme Boateng putting surprisingly little effort into chasing it down. He found Azmoun, who charged into the box, sent Boateng the wrong way and placed the ball in past Ulreich.
Rostov go ahead twice from set pieces
Bayern had an early chance to regain the lead after half-time. Franck Ribéry, who had had a quiet game up to this point, got the better of two defenders in the left-hand corner of the pitch and found Philipp Lahm with a cross. Perhaps he wasn’t the best man to find though, as the captain headed what was an excellent chance wide.
Rostov soon had them reeling again. A cross into the Bayern box had Boateng struggling, Noboa jumped on the loose ball and Boateng, whose poor evening would soon be ended by an injury that was clearly troubling him, hacked him down and gave away a penalty. Poloz sent Ulreich the wrong way to convert.
Bayern weren’t behind for long, as they showed the sort of urgency more common in the 90th minute than the 50th. They passed it around, with Sanches finding Ribéry, and the Frenchman played it forward to Bernat, who finished the move.
Bayern were unable to keep up the momentum, and Rostov came at them again. Azmoun continued to be a menace, despite being troubled by a shoulder injury, and was almost through on the right before Ulreich came out to clear. He then played a promising cross to Poloz, who was fouled by Thiago.
After a long delay, the resulting free-kick was taken by Noboa. Ulreich chose a starting position far to his right, with the wall supposedly covering the left. Naturally there’s where Noboa put his sublime strike, and the Bayern keeper had left himself too much to do. Rostov led again.
Bayern labour for no reward
Rostov will have known that they were in for a barrage of Bayern pressure. Yet for all that Bayern tried to do, a goal just wouldn’t come. They came closest when substitute Thomas Müller headed Rafinha’s cross into the arms of Dzhanaev. The keeper was virtually in the goal himself, but the ball didn’t quite cross the line.
Then a moment of confusion. Ribéry tried to find Lewandowski with a cross, however the forward had Navas completely over him. The referee pointed to the spot, before realising that his assistant had his flag up. It was indeed just about offside, and that decision took precedence.
Bayern were becoming desperate now. Thiago had a shot saved, but then hopelessly over hit a ball into the box. With a Costa corner taken in the air by Dzhanaev, Bayern’s hopes of saving the game, and with the chance to win the group, were frozen in ice.