BUNDESLIGA

Bayern Munich show their class after early scare

Bayer Leverkusen slip out of the Champions League places as Bayern Munich reaffirmed their status as the best side in Germany with a win on Saturday.

Bayern Munich show their class after early scare
POOL REUTERS

Much of the talk in the week building up to this game revolved around young Bayer Leverkusen forward Kai Havertz who is believed to be a transfer target of Bayern Munich’s, along with a host of other top clubs. But when it was revealed that he would be absent from the squad with a muscle complaint, the home side’s task became a lot greater.

Bayern fall behind early on

Leverkusen actually began the game as the stronger of the two sides, their 5-2-3 formation giving them the width to exploit Bayern’s advanced full-backs. The league leaders were uncharacteristically sloppy in the defence in the early stages and were punished when Lucas Alario ran onto a through ball from Julian Baumgartlinger and slotted it inside the near post. The goal was initially adjudged to be offside but the linesman’s decision was overturned by VAR as the hosts took a deserved early lead.

Content with that slender advantage the home side seemed to retreat, their five-man backline sat deep to prevent Bayern’s forwards using their pace. It worked for a spell but soon Bayern’s possession started to tell and first Kingsley Coman and then Robert Lewandowski went close.

Coman instigates Bayern fightback

The game was just shy of the half hour mark when the visitors found the equaliser, Leon Goretzka pinching possession from the otherwise impressive Edmond Tapsoba and setting Coman racing through on goal. This time the Frenchman was not to be denied and he curved his shot past Lukáš Hrádecký.

The goal forced Leverkusen to show a little more ambition but they were punished a few minutes before half-time when Bayern broke with pace to find Coman on the edge of the Leverkusen box. A neat flick found Thomas Müller who nudged the ball to Goretzka and the midfielder fired into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

Despite having reversed the deficit Bayern were in no mood to ease up and made it 3-1 on the stroke of half-time. A raking pass from Joshua Kimmich found Serge Gnabry darting through the Leverkusen defence, before cushioning the ball past a stranded Hrádecký. On reflection the Finn may feel that his charge from goal was a touch hasty.

After such a promising start Leverkusen went into the break with a mountain to climb and they struggled to mount any real challenge in the second half. A triple-substitution from the hosts made little difference to the flow of the game and Bayern continued to exert their dominance in the second 45. Moussa Diaby made a few purposeful runs down the left flank but his final product was erratic at best and never really looked like reducing the deficit.

Wirtz makes Bundesliga history

At the other end of the pitch Lewandowski showed what clinical finishing looks like, connecting with a Müller cross to head home his customary goal. It was the Pole’s 30th in the Bundesliga this season, and his 44th in all competitions of an incredible campaign.

As the game drifted to its natural conclusion there was still time for a moment of class from the youngest player on the pitch. With just minutes to go teenager Florian Wirtz found some space in the Bayern box and floated a delicate finish past a full-stretch Manuel Neuer for his first senior goal. At just 17 years and 43 days, Wirtz becomes the youngest goal-scorer in Bundesliga history.

It is a dent in Leverkusen’s Champions League aspirations but they can take some comfort from the fact that their rivals Borussia Monchengladbach travel to the Allianz Arena next week. With Bayern in this type of form, it is difficult to see them faring much better.