Led by a Robert Lewandowski hat trick, Bayern Munich bounced back from last week’s 2-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach with a dominant 4-0 win over FC Köln at the Rhein-Energie Stadion. Manuel Neuer marked his return from his recent coronavirus infection that caused him to miss the Gladbach match with a clean sheet, though he only had a small handful of saves to make. He was quarantined in the Maldives before returning to Munich and Sabener Strasse earlier this week and was deemed fit enough to slot right back in between the sticks after Sven Ulreich deputized for him against Die Fohlen.
Leroy Sane also recovered from his recent COVID-19 infection and came on as a sub in the second half, but speaking after the match, Neuer admitted that it’s a little bit easier to comeback as a goalkeeper than it is as an outfield player. “It’s a little more difficult for a player than for a goalkeeper. I had my sessions with goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic. As a player, you always have to run up and down, so you need a little more. But Leroy found his way back today,” he said (Tz).
Prior to the match kicking off, Borussia Dortmund had provisionally closed the gap at the top of the Bundesliga table to three points with their 5-1 win over SC Freiburg, so the pressure was on Bayern in Cologne, especially having lost last week to Gladbach. The title race is well and truly on, but as Neuer alluded to, it was vital for Bayern to get back in the win column and restore the six point gap at the top of the table. “After the defeat against Gladbach, it was important that we get the first three (points). That’s how we performed,” Neuer said.
With his third goal for his hat trick, Lewandowski scored his 300th Bundesliga goal and his 23rd of the season in the Bundesliga. He’s only 65 goals away from equaling Gerd Muller’s all-time scoring record and is a player, Neuer said, that Bayern is very lucky to have. “We’re happy and grateful that he’s playing for us. He’s a machine in the front of the box. You saw that again today,” he said.
In a more bizarre twist after the final whistle, in exchange for Neuer’s jersey, Stefan Baumgart gave Neuer his infamous white cap. The cap had made quite a few rounds on social media a few match weeks back when Anthony Modeste had taken it off of Baumgart’s head during a goal celebration that didn’t seem to be taken too kindly by the FC Köln manager. It’s certainly a distinguishable accessory for a manager that’s already known for his high decibel levels on the touchlines, but Neuer was grateful for the gesture. “The cap is already in the locker room. He asked me for my jersey. I didn’t enjoy getting his jersey back then when he was playing for Hansa Rostock. His cap is legendary,” he said.