Jersey Swap: Paulinho
Every minute a Bayer Leverkusen player spent on the pitch was bad. Paulinho, by virtue of spending the least minutes on the pitch, was the least-bad. Congrats, kid.
Tip of the Cap: Rafinha
Despite being matched up against Leon Bailey while also playing out of position, Rafinha showed once again why he wears the Bayern Munich shirt. The battle between the 33-year old Brazilian and one of the hottest young wingers in Europe was supposed to end only one way — but clearly Raifnha didn’t get the memo. He bullied Bailey and basically removed him from the match. Even when Julian Brandt was subbed on to give him some support, there was no change change on the Brazilian’s flank. This just goes to show that backups at Bayern aren’t ordinary backups — they could start for any team in the world.
It’s a shame what happened with the Karim Bellarabi foul. The challenge was malicious and the red card was completely deserved.
Golf Clap: James Rodriguez
Everyone was disappointed to see James starting from the bench once again, but when Corentin Tolisso had to be subbed off due to injury, the Colombian came on and took his chances. Mats Hummels should take notes on the two headers he had, both of which ended up in the back of net (but only one of which counted, the other was offside).
The only thing keeping James from being at the top of this list is how lethargic Bayern looked in the second half. Notably, there were a few moments when he and Thomas Muller almost managed to link up, but didn’t quite manage it. Each of them should’ve had an extra pair of goals on the night, assisted by the other. Perhaps this performance can convince Kovac to give James more minutes on the pitch. The sooner he forms an understanding with Muller and Robert Lewandowski, the better.
Standing Ovation: Thiago Alcantara
Thiago Alcantara is so good, and he seems to be getting better. The highlight of his game today — aside from, y’know, all the amazing passes, interceptions, tackles, dribbles etc. — was the late run he made into the Leverkusen box to chase down a ball. The resulting cross was converted by James and netted the Spanish maestro an assist.
Meister of the Match: Corentin Tolisso
This actually hurts to write because of what happened, because Corentin Tolisso was excellent in his first start of the season. Tolisso not only opened the scoring for Bayern with a great finish, but his goal also downed Leverkusen mentally because it came so soon after their goal. He was great in the other areas of the pitch as well, resembling a mini-Schweinsteiger with the way he switched from attack to defense and back to attack again.
Unfortunately, the knee injury looked really bad. Once again, Bayern has had a promising young Frenchman go down just when it looked like he was going to hit his stride.