FC Bayern did most of what we wanted to do as far as midfield tactics and controlling the match. I'd have to look at final numbers, but I think Bayern saw probably 70 percent of the possession in the match. After half an hour, despite the match being scoreless, Bayern supporters knew our side had been stronger and more dangerous. Unfortunately, a ruthless counter-attack gave Leverkusen the lead late in the first half:
A halftime substitution left Bayern more aggressive, as Shaqiri took over the LW spot, with Alaba moving back to LB and Badstuber hitting the bench. And a few minutes later, Arjen Robben made an appearance, with Gustavo coming off, followedby Bastian Schweinsteiger making way for Pizarro. At that point, Bayern had 6 natural forward/wing players on the pitch at once (Mandzu, Mueller, Pizarro, Shaqiri, Kroos, and Robben), plus an aggressive forward-leaning LB (Alaba). The gamble finally paid off, as Pizarro's perfect low-lob allowed Mandzukic to plant a header in the net:
It felt like Leverkusen would be playing an all-defensive holding action from that point, but their luck reared up again. Sidney Sam, coming off the bench, got a bit of room in front of the Bayern net to get his head to a cross. Manuel Neuer appeared to have the play lined up for a save, but the ball bounced right off Boateng's head and into the far corner of the net:
Bayern fought back hard, with Neuer playing nearly into the opponents' area and a few close chances at the end. But sometimes luck isn't with you, and this wasn't Bayern's day. With the loss, Die Roten sit 4 points ahead over surging Schalke 04. Some thoughts:
- We need to lay off the diving in the area. Not only was Shaqiri rightly carded for a dive, but Mueller had a play where he might have had a chance for a header, and instead chose to exaggerate a minor bump and crumbled to the ground. I guess this wasn't a "dive," because he was touched, but a clear attempt to earn a penalty when he could have kept his feet and gone after the ball.
- Leno played incredibly for Leverkusen. He must have had at least 4 tough saves, in addition to the two that hit the woodwork. If any of those good first half chance end up in the net for Bayern, the entire match goes differently, as Leverkusen would have to play more aggressively.
- Despite the dive, Shaqiri generally played well, threatening Leverkusen whenever he had the ball at his feet. When Robben came on, those two were playing well together when both were on the left side ... I wonder if we wouldn't consider a 4-1-4-1 or even a 3-2-4-1 if we need to move Robben around a bit.
We'll be back tonight or tomorrow with an updated look at the 1. Bundesliga situation and to preview the midweek matches. Thanks for reading.