Yet again, Bayern lacked consistency
For the whole season, Bayern has found it hard to be consistent for the full 90 minutes. Leverkusen started the game at a fast pace, pressuring Bayern in order to capitalize on their energetic wingers. Bayern responded by dropping back, growing into the game and controlling more so it as time passed.
Bayern’s first and only goal was started by a fast transition after the Bayern defense recovered the ball in their half. Bayern then was very unlucky not to go up 2-0 by half-time, after a goal by Lewandowski was disallowed on a controversial offside call. But excepting the first ten minutes of the game, Bayern was in control and deservedly in the lead by half-time.
But after conceding on Leon Bailey’s free-kick, Bayern looked like a team without a plan for the whole second half. Leverkusen capitalized on Bayern’s lack of creativity in the final third and, with quick passing, scored another two goals to seal the victory.
Bayern has lost points at home this season after blowing leads to teams like Augsburg, Düsseldorf, and Freiburg. And away, Bayern has lost games after blowing leads to Dortmund and now Leverkusen. If Bayern ends this season title-less, it is clear that one of the main causes will be a lack of consistency during the full 90 minutes.
Bayern’s midfield was overwhelmed in the second half
Kovac has shown throughout his first season at Bayern that he likes to drop back with 10 men (excluding Lewandowski) when pressured. Bayern did it today, successfully, for 35 minutes in the first half. During those 35 minutes, Bayern’s scored on a counter and continuously broke down Leverkusen’s back four.
But in the second half, Bayern’s midfield was overwhelmed. There was no creativity up front. James and Muller played poorly in the second half, and they both were brought off after creating nothing. Leverkusen started the game with Havertz and Brandt both playing in front of Aranguiz in a midfield triangle. But Havertz’s injury forced Peter Bosz to change his initial offensive strategy by introducing the more defensive minded Julian Baumgartlinger.
In the second half, Kimmich and Goretzka lost control of the midfield as they struggled to provide any key passes offensively, while Leverkusen’s midfield trio easily launched counter-attacks past them with energy and precision.
Losing to Bosz’s high-pressure Leverkusen does not bode well for Bayern’s upcoming Champions League tie against Liverpool. For 35 minutes, Bayern proved that they can do well against pressing teams. Kovac did not underestimate Leverkusen by any means, although his team was unable to win any points today. Bailey, Volland, and Brandt were excellent, and Bayern could not handle their pace for the full 90 minutes. Liverpool’s players are just as quick. Kovac will have to go back to the drawing board before the game at Anfield.
A game decided by narrow margins
It is hard to be positive after the first loss of 2019, which means that Bayern is now 7 points behind Dortmund. Although there is still plenty of league football to be played, the likelihood that Bayern can come back to win the league has dropped.
This loss was, however, decided by the narrowest of margins.
First of all, Leverkusen is a very good side that has enough quality to be playing in Europe this season. Bosz, who in my opinion was prematurely fired from Dortmund, is an exciting coach, who makes his teams play with high energy and a creative mindset. If Bayern does not win the league this year, it is because of the points lost to Düsseldorf, Freiburg, and Augsburg. Bayern played much better than today, but the game was decided by two scenes.
1. Lewandowski’s disallowed goal – Bayern could have been 2-0 up by half-time. VAR was used, and apparently the hair on Lewandowski’s knee was offside. It is always painful to see a beautifully worked goal be disallowed by that small of a margin, and even more painful to think that the entire second half would have looked different, had Lewandowski’s goal been confirmed.
2. Bailey’s free-kick – This will sound harsh, but if Neuer was between the posts today, Bayern would have still been in the lead after 53 minutes played. It was a fantastic free kick by the Jamaican-born talent, but questions have to be asked about Ulreich’s positioning, particularly on a free kick from so far out.