The very least Bayern deserved from a high-octane encounter away to Leverkusen on Saturday was a point, but the men from Munich were punished for missing a string of early openings as Bayer ruthlessly twice struck late in the game to end a run of 14 matches without a win against FCB dating back to 2004.
The 30,210 capacity crowd at the BayArena saw the visitors turn in a furious opening onslaught and fashion a handful of gilt-edged chances, but Jupp Heynckes’ side were guilty of carelessness on a couple of occasions and the first half remained mysteriously goalless.
The pace remained high and the action came thick and fast in an absorbing second period, with both sides enjoying spells in the ascendant. Stefan Kießling broke the deadlock after 79 minutes with a messy goal hardly in keeping with the fine football of earlier in the match, before home substitute Karim Bellarabi scored on the break in stoppage time to seal Bayern’s defeat.
The result leaves FCB second in the Bundesliga on 48 points from 24 matches, still four off leaders Borussia Dortmund, although the champions play tonight at home to mid-table Mainz. The Bavarians are next in action on Saturday 10 March at home to Hoffenheim, with the crucial Champions League return against FC Basel just three days after that.
Heynckes made one change to the team which so impressively beat Schalke last week, Toni Kroos returning to the side in place of Franck Ribery, who started on the bench following the injury sustained while playing for France in midweek.
That meant Manuel Neuer kept goal as usual, behind a back four of Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber and skipper Philipp Lahm. Luiz Gustavo again partnered David Alaba in the midfield engine room, with Arjen Robben out on the right flank, Thomas Müller on the left, Kroos in the hole, and Mario Gomez at centre-forward.
Bayer boss Robin Dutt was without a clutch of players including former FCB captain Michael Ballack, and started with the seasoned Simon Rolfes and Switzerland hitman Eren Derdiyok among the subs, but although André Schürrle broke his nose playing for Germany on Wednesday, the striker was cleared to play in protective mask.
Once referee Manuel Gräfe whistled play underway on a grey but dry Rhineland afternoon, the men from Munich roared off the blocks and were soon laying siege to the Leverkusen goal. Alaba should have scored after just two minutes but shot straight at keeper Bernd Leno, Kroos poking the rebound just wide, before the acuteness of the angle denied Gomez barely 60 seconds later.
FCB were finding huge amounts of space down the flanks, Robben and Müller both seeing shots blocked after good build-up play from Kroos and Robben, and although Schürrle and Stefan Kießling directed first tentative efforts at Neuer’s goal, the visitors were easily the better of the sides, Leno doing very well indeed to tip a Robben drive round the post.
Gustavo required treatment after a shuddering collision with Lars Bender midway through the first half, and although the midfielder was able to continue, Bayer had settled and now seized the initiative for a spell. Schürrle drew a save from Neuer after Kießling’s burst to the by-line, but FCB remained dangerous on the break and Müller steered a header narrowly wide after 35 minutes, before the Germany’s international failed to make the most of a fine defence-splitting through ball from Kroos.
Arguably the best chances of the lot came five minutes from the break, first when Robben brilliantly played in Gomez, but although the striker rounded Leno, he side-footed his shot at the covering Manuel Friedrich and the danger was cleared. At the other end, Schürrle sprang the offside trap but Neuer thrust out a foot to deny his Germany team-mate.
Bender loosed off the first shot after the restart but aimed well wide, Robben replying with a similar effort at the other end, although Gustavo had strayed offside in the build-up. Leno spread himself to deny Robben after 57 minutes as the Dutch ace hared down the inside-left channel, but Heynckes had seen enough on the hour and replaced the ineffectual Gomez with Ribery.
But Bayer played their part too and there was a huge let-off for Heynckes’ men when Stefan Reinartz spooned over the empty net after a thrilling break initiated by Michel Kadlec, before Neuer produced two fine saves, a stunning reaction block and then a dive at the near post to deny Kießling twice in quick succession.
Leno intervened ahead of Müller after Lahm’s break down the left, before Ivica Olic took over from Kroos for the last quarter of an hour. Ribery’s deflected grubber dribbled just wide, but disaster struck with 11 minutes left when Kießling handed Bayer the lead after a slapstick chain of events in the FCB six-yard box. Nils Petersen replaced Müller for the closing stages, but as Heynckes threw everyone forwards at the end, Gonzalo Castro broke down the right and set up Bellarabi to administer the coup de grace.
Chris Hamley reporting from the BayArena for fcbayern.de
|Bayer Leverkusen - Bayern Munich 2-0 (HT: 0-0)|
|Bayer Leverkusen||Leno - Schwaab, Friedrich (Derdiyok 46), Toprak, Kadlec - Reinartz, Bender - Castro, Renato Augusto (Rolfes 89), Schürrle (Bellarabi 83) - Kießling|
|Bayern Munich||Neuer - Rafinha, Boateng, Badstuber, Lahm - Luiz Gustavo, Alaba - Müller (Petersen 82), Kroos (Olic 74), Robben - Gomez (Ribéry 61)|
|Substitutes:||Butt, Contento, Pranjic, Tymoshchuk|
|Referee:||Mr. Gräfe (Berlin)|
|Goals:||1-0 Kießling (79), 2-0 Bellarabi (90)|
|Yellow/Red Cards:||Toprak / Boateng, Luiz Gustavo, Rafinha|