Leverkusen 2-4 Bayern Munich
(Alario 9′, Wirtz 88′ – Coman 27′, Goretzka 42′, Gnabry 45′, Lewandowski 66′)
As in the corresponding fixture earlier this season, Leverkusen took an early lead. But unlike that first meeting, which had ended in a first defeat for Bayern under Hansi Flick, it wasn’t to lead to a shock victory for Leverkusen.
Leon Goretzka saw to that. With an assist, a goal and all-round first-half performance which demonstrated the emphatic change in both his and Bayern’s game over the course of this season, Bayern proved unstoppable again.
As in Munich in November, Goretzka lined up alongside Joshua Kimmich and behind Thomas Müller in midfield. The personnel was the same, but the approach was different. In the reverse fixture, Bayern were forced into errors, caught on the break by Peter Bosz’s typically high-pressing side. Here though, it was Bayern forcing the errors, and Goretzka leading the way.
Bigger and better since January
Just before the half-hour mark, the 25-year-old commandingly won the ball from the hesitant Moussa Diaby in the center circle. Two touches later, he calmly sent Kingsley Coman on his way to draw Bayern level. It was Goretzka’s eighth Bundesliga assist this season, his seventh since the turn of the year and his third since the restart.
Bayern’s determination to beat everyone and anyone has them within touching distance of another title
“One of things that makes us stand out is how we find our way back into games via good tackling,” he said post-match, adding on a personal note: “And one of my strengths is creating danger from midfield.”
Goretzka can also be the direct source of that danger. Just before halftime, he put Bayern ahead with his fifth goal of the season – all of which have also come in 2020 – generating enough power despite being on the turn and on his weaker left foot.
Indeed, power is a key element which Goretzka has added to his game, having taken advantage of the coronavirus-enforced hiatus to spend more time in the gym. “I used the time to do more weight training,” he revealed last week. “I feel fully fit on the pitch. I also think, with the games coming thick and fast, that I can’t eat as much, so the kilos are dropping off.”
The changes in Goretzka’s physique and in his game have not gone unnoticed by his coach. “Looking at Leon, you can see he’s added muscle mass,” noted Flick. “That benefits his game. He has been outstanding as a holding midfielder, very present and often winning the ball back.”
Goretzka’s ball-winning qualities give Bayern a different option in midfield, a more physical alternative to the more offensive, more expressive Thiago. On Saturday, that allowed them to fight fire with fire and beat Leverkusen at their own game.
Bayern Munich wore these t-shirts in their warm-ups to show their support
As it happened:
88′ GOAL! 2-4 Leverkusen (Wirtz) And that is what Wirtz does. He tucks inside the defender in the box and then lifts a curling effort past Neuer. Patient and perfectly balanced. His first ever Bundesliga goal and although it won’t change the result, what a lovely moment for the 17-year-old.
86′ Lucas Hernandez comes on for Alphonso Davies. Crazy to think Hernandez is the most expensive transfer in Bundesliga history but, through injury and Davies’ impressive improvement, he hasn’t been a regular.
83′ Wirtz gets a chance to test Neuer but the keeper saves. Turning into one of the last 10 minute periods in a contest long decided where youngsters or players out of form look to grab a goal or an assist.
77′ The game is still pretty high-tempo to be honest. Diaby breaks down the left and goes for goal, again. Neuer tips over. Volland, just on for Alario, wanted it at the back post. Bayern have also made some subs, Martinez and Thiago are on for Goretzka and Gnabry. What a performance by Goretzka today.
70′ Bayern want even more goals. Perisic, on for Coman, is involved but Müller can’t quite the shot away. Hard to believe that Leverkusen were leading the game at one point.
66′ GOAL! 4-1 Bayern (Lewandowski) Records all round. Tapsoba’s pass is errant, unusually, and the ball is shuffled wide to Müller. He whips the ball in, Lewandowski leaps behind Goretzka and powers the ball home. Goal number 30 for Lewandowski in the league this season, Müller has 20 assists. Bayern are going to win here.
63′ With the game in the balance a bit, Bosz plays his card. Baumgartlinger off, Paulinho on (the fourth sub) as Leverkusen go all out to get a second and get back into the game. Bayern still look dangerous going forward though, and just like that the ball is at Gnabry’s feet in the box after good work by Coman but he fires over. Bouncing ball, not easy to be fair to Serge.
57′ The game remains tense and tight. Wirtz late on Kimmich. Bayern could have had a fourth had Gnabry and Müller not misunderstood each other after Leverkusen panicked at the back. Feels like next goal decides it. Just feel like there are more goals to come.
50′ What a start to this second half! Diaby blazes high and wide and then can’t make the most of the ball in the box. Chances, sort of. Then it’s Bayern’s turn and they march down the field with Goretzka leading the charge, Coman sets it up for Müller but his first-time effort slides just wide. Lovely football.
46′ We are back underway and Leverkusen have made a triple sub! Wendell on for Amiri, youngster Wirtz replaces Bellarabi and Demirbay is on for Bailey.
Well, it all started so well for Leverkusen but Bayern shook off their nervous and hesitant start to turn the game around and likely end the contest before the second half has even started. Leon Goretzka the difference maker really, but Leverkusen have been caught out at the back.
45′ GOAL! 3-1 Bayern (Gnabry) Well, if at first you don’t succeed. Kimmich sends a gorgeous long ball, putting Gnabry in again and with Tapsoba beaten and Hradecky rushing out, Gnabry lifts it over the keeper. Never mind the chance a moment ago, now Gnabry has his goal. And that might just be the game.
44′ CHANCE! Gnabry really should make it three, but Hradecky keeps his effort out at the near post. He had all the time in the world there and that was maybe the problem…
42′ GOAL! 2-1 Bayern (Goretzka) Don’t want to say it was coming, but here it is. From a Leverkusen corner, Bayern launch a quick break. Lewandowski does most of the work and then sends a cross field pass to Müller, he knocks it back to Pavard who threads the pass to Coman. He flicks it to the on-rushing Müller, who slips it to Goretzka. He drives forward before firing into the far corner. Great goal.
39′ Diaby gets a shot away, saved by Neuer. Down the other end, Alaba sends a beautiful ball over the top for Lewandowski. His control on the chest is superb, but the finish makes his effort more of a cross. Müller is booked, for blocking a free kick, and that means he too is out of Gladbach next week (fifth yellow). Fun fact: it is the first time in his career that he will be suspended as a result of five yellow cards.
35′ Another yellow, this time for Bellarabi. He has been edging towards one all afternoon if we are honest, especially given how much trouble he has given Davies. Big 10 minutes now before the half. Have the feeling Bayern are going to grab another.
31′ Amiri booked. Free kick dealt with. Then Lewandowski is booked and that is his fifth, which means he will be out against Gladbach. A big loss were the title race closer, but the Pole will also be annoyed to miss a game in his race to win yet another golden boot. A really good game is brewing now.
27′ GOAL! 1-1 Bayern (Coman) Great play by Leon Goretzka makes this goal. His works hard to win the ball of Diaby in midfield, strides forward a few steps and then slips Coman in behind Leverkusen’s defensive line. The Frenchman curls into the far corner, outfoxing Hradecky in goal. Turning point in the game, I think.
24′ Gnabry miscontrols in the box. It’s all a bit rushed and hesitant from Bayern so far. Flag goes up as Coman heads back towards Lewandowski deep inside the box. Right call but again, Bayern not quite at the races so far.
20′ Davies has been stopped so far today and it is safe to say that Bayern genuinely look rattled. Gnabry not in the game. Coman’s cross is cleared. Leverkusen are doing a mighty fine job off the ball so far.
15′ Leverkusen still pushing, impressively, but Bayern deal with it. Then the visitors surge forward, but they too can’t make the most of their set-piece. Have to say, since the goal Leverkusen look better – even after the goal. Bailey being used a lot.
9′ GOAL! 1-0 Leverkusen (Alario) Well then. Throw-in lands at Baumgartlinger’s feet, he nudges it forward and Alaba, of all people, is out of place. That allows Alario to get into the box on the left-hand side and the forward beats Neuer at the near post with the outside of the boot. Confident finish and, after the flag had gone up, the goal counts thanks to VAR. The infamous calibrated lines show he was onside.
7′ Bayern pressing hard and high. Aranguiz losing the ball after that pressure, Coman powers forward, Tapsoba with the tackle and it is Coman that goes into the book for dying. Coman, by the way, is wearing a Black Lives Matter armband. I think his teammates are too.
5′ Bailey tries a deep cross to Bellarabi but he gets too much of it and Bayern have a throw. The camera pans to Havertz sat in the VIP area on his own. Would have liked to see him play today.
3′ Boateng picks Coman out on the right with a perfect pass. He has not lost it. Just lovely. The move breaks down an offside flag but both teams bursting out of the blocks here.
1′ Off we go! Leverkusen, in all red, get us started against Bayern, in dark blue.
— Words from the head coaches
Peter Bosz tells Sky before the game it was Havertz’s knee that has kept him out. It did look like a proper knock in Freiburg. Question marks will now arise about whether he can play in the German Cup semifinal next week. Also, Bosz is optimistic he can keep Bayern quieter with his back three.
Under Flick, Bayern are averaging 3.2 goals a game. That’s quite a lot of goals. Eight straight wins too. Flick, also speaking to Sky, says he wants more precision in the moment they get the ball and move forward. Scary to think what Bayern doing more of anything could look like considering the last few weeks.
Flick says Bayern warming up in t-shirts with #BlackLivesMatter on them was a team decision. “It [racism] cannot be a topic today but sadly it is because there are still a few idiots out there who think differently.”
— Title race
With Bayern seven points clear, the title looks decided but a defeat today opens the door a bit for Dortmund, so long as they win against Hertha later. Should they win, that really will be that but the race to finish in the top four hots up. After Gladbach lost in Freiburg on Friday night, Leverkusen have a chance to reclaim fourth. RB Leipzig are expected to take advantage of a Paderborn side playing for pride. In short, a lot is on the line in Leverkusen today.
— Lewandowski looking for more
There really isn’t much left to say about Bayern’s number 9. This afternoon he is looking for his 44th goal of the season. He has 29 in the Bundesliga already this season and is chasing a career best of 30 in the league. Hard to believe he won’t reach that.
The big news is that Kai Havertz, perhaps the Bundesliga’s most wanted player at the moment, is out. He picked up a muscle injury against Freiburg last week and hasn’t been able to shake it off. Lucas Alario steps in, but Havertz is a huge loss for Leverkusen, and for the game itself.
Bayern, otherwise, are as expected. Thiago is on the bench again.
Leverkusen XI: Hradecky – S. Bender, Tapsoba, Dragovic – Baumgartlinger, Aranguiz, Amiri – Bellarabi, Diaby, Bailey – Alario
Bayern XI: Neuer – Davies, Alaba, Boateng, Pavard – Kimmich, Goretzka – Gnabry, Müller, Coman – Lewandowski