Coming into the BayArena with both eyes on their upcoming clash with FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League, Bayern Munich rolled out a reserve heavy lineup against Bayer Leverkusen. While it was a good performance, they ultimately fell 2-0 behind goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Julian Brandt.
Bastian Schweinsteiger started and Javi Martinez came back after a long absence. Claudio Pizarro started the game as well. Leverkusen came out the stronger of the two sides in the first half as Bayern found themselves breaking up Bayer 04's attacks rather than producing any of their own. Yet the first big chance fell to Bayern as a Mario Götze shot saw Bernd Leno fumble the ball but Bastian Schweinsteiger could not push in the rebound.
Plenty of good work by the Leverkusen front line led to them creating a whole host of chances yet the final pass or the final shot was always missing. Tin Jedvaj's effort which flew past everything is one such example. Bayern had another great chance as well when Götze rounded Leno following Schweinsteiger's brilliant pass from midfield only to see the superb Jedvaj clear off the line.
In the second half, the game opened up more as both sides went searching for a goal. Claudio Pizarro danced his way past the defense and very nearly scored but Leno produced another great save. Dante and Martinez kept out Leverkusen well but it was Martinez's shirt pull (and that was a very obvious shirt pull) saw Stefan Kiessling stumble. The referee awarded a freekick and Hakan Calhanoglu came to take it.
Calhanoglu's effort was spectacular as it sneaked past Manuel Neuer into the bottom left corner. Bayern then tried their best to score, coming very close with Mario Götze after great work by debutant Lukas Görtler. Leno made himself as big as possible and made yet another good save but Götze should have passed to Görtler.
As much as Bayern tried, they were going to get hit a second time considering how much time and space Karim Bellarabi was being afforded time and time again. He turned a defensive ball into an attacking play and set up Julian Brandt . On his birthday, the Fritz Walter Gold Medalist gave Neuer and the defense no time but simply scored.
The result leaves Leverkusen tied for third with Gladbach who play tomorrow.
Leverkusen: Calhanoglu (55'), Brandt (81')
Bayer Leverkusen XI (4-2-3-1): Leno - Hilbert, Jedvaj, Toprak, Wendell - Reinartz, Rolfes – Bellarabi (Yurchenko 90), Calhanoglu (Brandt 75), Son – Kießling (Drmic 75)
Bayern XI (4-2-3-1): Neuer - Rafinha, Javi Martinez (Benatia 62), Dante, Strieder - Gaudino, Lahm (Thiago 64) - Weiser, Schweinsteiger, Götze – Pizarro (Görtler 72)
- A few plaudits for the Leverkusen players: Simon Rolfes is set to retire at the end of this season but has certainly not lost his eye for a brilliant pass and played quite a few of those today. Brandt is a gift to football; he is simply brilliant and fearless. Rene Adler was great while in goal for Bayer 04 but Bernd Leno might be even better. Turning Tin Jedvaj's loan deal into a permanent one was a masterstroke by Bayer 04. Jedvaj, who has scored some brilliant goals this season, was missing his shooting boots today though.
- As for the negatives, Leverkusen had to toughen up in past seasons but have toughened up by, at times, becoming a rather nasty side. They committed countless niggly fouls. Every time a Bayern player fell to the floor (including Martinez once in the first half), I had a mini heart attack.
- Martinez looked like he never left. Aside from the shirt pull (and I have seen Martinez do this before), he was brilliant. Dante had a good game as well, which is reason to hope considering the number of absent players going into the Barcelona clash. Philipp Lahm's tackling skills might see him start either as a right-back or on the wing on Tuesday; his tackles were very helpful in keeping Bayer 04 out today.
- Both the Bayern debutants in Rico Strieder and Lukas Görtler had good games although Strieder needs more experience. Görtler could have had a goal on his debut of course but as mentioned before, his supplier had other ideas. Mitchell Weiser had another good day at the office; hopefully, a new contract looms on the horizon for him. This was one of Götze better games as well.