There’s absolutely no need to sugarcoat anything about this match. Despite dominating the overall balance of play and significantly out-shooting Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich suffered their second home defeat of the season and their first loss under the Hansi Flick era. A brace from Leon Bailey was enough to secure the 3 points for Leverkusen, despite a 34th minute goal from Thomas Muller and a spirited second half effort from Bayern where they had a bevvy of solid chances to equalize.
Missed chances, missed chances....missed chances
If you don’t make the most of the chances that are given to you, you don’t score goals and you drop points; that’s the nature of the beast in football. Bayern Munich out-shot Leverkusen 24-11 and had 9 shots on target, 3 of which struck the woodwork. In the second half, it’s almost as if the match ball and Leverkusen’s woodwork had an exclusive affair with one another with sporadic interventions from Lukáš Hrádecký.
In particular, both Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski were uncharacteristically poor with their finishing in the final third and either of them could’ve had at least two or three goals between the two of them had they been more clinical. Granted, a few of Lewandowski’s chances were offside situations where the flag from the side official came up really late, but he still struggled in front of goal, which is something we rarely ever see with him.
Credit should also be given to Leverkusen’s resilient back line who stood strong for large portions of the match and did a good job of reacting to loose balls in and around their own area when Bayern were creating chances. Both Sven and Lars Bender put in solid performances and Jonathan Tah was resolute before he was sent off in the 81st minute for a challenge on Philippe Coutinho.
Still, Bayern were made to rue their missed chances and will have to make that a huge point of emphasis in their preparations for their trip to Borussia Monchengladbach next weekend.
The battle of the high defensive lines and high presses
Both of the goals that Bayern conceded came partially as a result of the defensive line being caught out and pressed too high up the pitch. For Baiely’s first goal, Alphonso Davies had conceded possession rather cheaply near the halfway line and two passes later, Bailey was in on goal when David Alaba, Javi Martinez, and Benjamin Pavard were on their heels. Pavard was also perhaps a bit guilty of not being goal side of Bailey when the pass was played into him as he was triyng to hold the offside line.
For the second goal, Bailey had acres of space to run into after Leverkusen had cleared their lines inside of their own box. Martinez was caught on his heels and Pavard, Alaba, and Davies were pressed forward joining in on Bayern’s attack as they searched for a second goal when it was level pegging at 1-1. Bailey’s two goals followed almost identical blueprints, which is something that Hansi Flick and his coaching staff should address in the next couple of training sessions. It was his decision to start playing with a higher defensive line and more condensed spaces between defense, midfield, and attack, and Muller had even mentioned how much of a calculated risk it is to play that way.
Counter attacking 101:
Leverkusen’s high press was on full display right out of the gates, spearheaded by Kevin Volland, Moussa Diaby, and Leon Bailey. They were forcing Bayern to play out of the back quickly and, at times, play far more direct than they would’ve liked. Their defensive line did get caught out a handful of times in the first half on direct balls over the top, but Bayern weren’t able to capitalize on those situations. Peter Bosz had his side well disciplined and despite Bayern also implementing the high press in the opening stages, Leverkusen found lots of success playing more direct, especially with the pace of Bailey and Diaby on the flanks, respectively.
Perhaps the wrong time to give Perisic a start?
In the opening four matches of Flick’s reign as interim manager, Bayern’s ebb and flow was very strong and the performances were consistent. While he did make several changes for the midweek Champions League match against Red Star Belgrade, the first three matches prior to that saw almost identical starting lineups, especially with the back line of Alaba, Martinez, Davies and Pavard.
Ivan Perisic was given a rare start playing on the left flank behind Lewandowski with Serge Gnabry on the right. While it was far from Perisic’s worst performance, he was rather ineffective for large periods of the match, predominantly playing lateral and back-passes and struggled to create anything in the final third. He skied the only close range opportunity that fell his way after Muller sent his lobbed cross to the far post and was eventually replaced by Kingsley Coman in the 69th minute, when Coutinho replaced Muller.
Even before Tah was sent off, Bayern looked far more positive going forward with the introduction of both Coman and Coutinho, who both offer more pace and creativity on the ball than Perisic. Still, Bayern weren’t able to convert any of their chances, but Flick will surely have to wonder if the first half might’ve gone a bit differently had he started either Coutinho or Coman from the left flank, especially since Coutinho performed so well against Belgrade midweek.