Bayer Leverkusen – Bayern Munich: Leverkusen Make Bright Start But Succumb To Bayern Onslaught (2-4)
Though the hosts made a bright start, they were unable to withstand the suffocating pressure applied by Bayern, and slumped to a demoralising defeat with their best player unable to even set foot on the pitch.
Tactical analysis and match report by Manasvin Andra.
Leverkusen manager Peter Bosz made three changes to the side that beat Freiburg last weekend, with Edmond Tapsoba, Moussa Diaby and Lucas Alario coming in to replace Jonathan Tah, Florian Wirtz and Kai Havertz respectively. Leverkusen played in their usual 3-4-3 shape, with a set of offensive wing-backs in Leon Bailey and Nadiem Amiri, flanking a defense comprising of Tapsobah, Sven Bender and Aleksandar Dragović. Ahead of them sat the pivot of Charles Aranguiz and captain Julian Baumgartlinger, with Diaby, Alario and Karim Bellarabi forming the front three.
Though losing Havertz before the game was a major blow, Leverkusen could count on the experience of their previous meeting with Bayern, where they came out on top against Flick’s side despite being without their leader and talisman.
There were no such injury problems affecting Bayern, who fielded an unchanged side as they took a huge step towards an eight consecutive Meisterschale. Flick’s team demonstrated admirable resolve and tenacity as they came back after conceding an early goal, and this match also proved to be an exhibition of what Kingsley Coman is capable of when in full flight.
Leverkusen’s rollercoaster first half
Leverkusen made a bright start to the match, pressing Bayern from the get-go as they attempted to win the ball and attack through vertical passes. The strategy almost reaped instant dividends, as Alario unsuccessfully chased down a long ball that was launched in behind the Bayern defence in the first minute. However, Leverkusen did not have to wait long for their breakthrough, as a mistake from David Alaba allowed them to draw first blood.
A free throw in the 9th minute allowed Baumgartlinger to win the ball after a skirmish, and the midfielder immediately sent Alario on his way with a fine pass in behind the defense. While Alario deserves credit for his finish past Neuer, the VAR check showed that Alaba’s hesitation – as the last Bayern defender – to step forward had played the Leverkusen striker onside. It was a rare mistake from the usually faultless center-back and resulted in Bayern falling behind just ten minutes into the game.
While Bayern took a while to get going, Leverkusen established an early rhythm with their buildup play. The defense routinely played the ball wide for Bailey to carry it into the Bayern half, which was followed by a deep cross to Bellarabi on the far side as Diaby moved inside and Amiri made an underlapping Underlap means that the full-back joins the offensive play by playing on the inside of the winger he supports. This is the reverse of an overlap, where the full-back plays on the outside and the winger moves inside. run into the middle. Alternatively, the ball was played forward into Diaby with Bellarabi maintaining width on the far side. Though the execution was lacking, the idea was sound, as Bayern found the switches problematic in the early moments of the game.
Leverkusen’s initial structure in possession.
To their credit, Bayern recognized the problem quickly and began to use passes into Bailey as pressing triggers. A pressing trigger is a specific pass or movement by the opponent that draws out a coordinated team press. Coman, Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich pounced the moment Leverkusen made the pass to Bailey, which forced them to quickly alter their strategy. The forced change meant that they now played the ball into the slower but more creative Amiri on the right, with the idea being that he would combine with Aranguiz and Bellarabi to progress the ball into the Bayern half.
Additionally, Leverkusen’s early off-ball set-up seemed promising, as their front three pressed in a man-oriented fashion against Bayern’s buildup attempts. Boateng, Kimmich and Alaba were placed under heavy pressure in the beginning, with Baumgartlinger marking Leon Goretzka and Aranguiz staying deeper to mark Müller. The plan seemed to work well in the initial stages; however, it would not be long till Bayern took control of the proceedings.
Bayern pass their way into the game
Despite their early success, Leverkusen dropped the press midway into the first half, settling into a 5-4-1 low block which was designed to prevent Bayern from combining through the middle. As Leverkusen dropped deep to protect their lead, Bayern set up camp in the hosts’ half, with Boateng, Alaba and Kimmich positioning themselves on the halfway line.
While Gnabry and Coman started the match on the left and right respectively they switched flanks as Bayern began imposing themselves on Leverkusen. This would prove to be a crucial change, as Coman seemed to relish playing alongside the assured Alphonso Davies on the left. Together, the two launched repeated raids down the wing, as they isolated and tormented Amiri on the left with speed and slick passing.
Things came to a head in the half hour before half-time, as Leverkusen’s compact shape was stretched by Coman and Davies on the left and Müller on the right. With Leverkusen largely conceding the wings, Coman and Davies took turns cutting in from the left, while Müller provided crucial connections for Gnabry and Pavard out wide. This forced Leverkusen to commit defenders to stop Bayern’s wide combinations, which opened spaces in the middle for Kimmich and Goretzka to occupy.
Bayern’s shape after Leverkusen dialled back their press. Though Bosz’s side attempted to maintain a compact shape, Bayern’s wingers pulled the wing-backs out of shape and forced gaps to open in between the Leverkusen lines.
The occupation of these spaces – along with the knowledge that a stable base for ball circulation existed through Boateng and Alaba – meant that Bayern quickly began to dominate. The visitors also deployed their counterpressing scheme to great effect, as any Leverkusen possession was quickly stopped and turned into a Bayern counterattack.
This period of sustained pressure saw Bayern completely shatter Leverkusen’s defensive scheme, as Coman equalized through a 27th minute breakaway following a wonderful pass from Goretzka. This seemed to greatly boost the winger’s confidence, as he became a lot more assured with his passing and decision-making post the goal. Goreztka himself got in on the action by putting Bayern up 2-1 in the 42nd minute after a superb layoff from Müller, who reached the twenty-assist mark after setting up a Lewandowski goal in the second half. Goretzka’s goal followed by two rapid breakaways from Gnabry, who made up for his failure to beat Lukáš Hrádecký on the first try by chipping the ball over him following an exquisite pass from Kimmich.
Leverkusen adjust but struggle to create
The good start followed by the comprehensive beatdown – in the same half – meant that Bosz reverted to a traditional 4-2-3-1 shape in the second half. Off came Bailey, Amiri and Bellarabi, who were replaced by Wendell, Kerem Demirbay and Florian Wirtz respectively. The switch saw Demirbay occupy the number ten role with Diaby and Wirtz on either side, while Wendell and Dragović occupied the left back and right back roles respectively.
Leverkusen’s second half shape.
The change in shape allowed Leverkusen to retain and circulate possession when they won the ball, in contrast to the first half where they were routinely suffocated by Bayern. The changed structure had a pronounced left side emphasis due to the movements of Diaby and Demirbay on the side, and Leverkusen attempted to overload When one team has more players in a certain area or zone than the other team. Bayern’s left flank before switching the ball to the right.
However, Leverkusen put up little defensive resistance despite the change in shape, and struggled to create chances till Paulinho was introduced in place of Baumgartlinger. The Brazilian’s arrival saw him partner Alario up top and press the Bayern defenders during the buildup stage, while Demirbay moved into a deeper role alongside Aranguiz.
Leverkusen ultimately pulled off a consolation goal through Wirtz, who became the Bundesliga’s youngest ever scorer in the process. The finish from the substitute was exceptional, as he cut in from the right and curled a shot past the outstretched Neuer.
Bayern’s title chase continues at full pelt, though they might face a potential hiccup against Borussia Mönchengladbach due to the suspensions handed out to Müller and Robert Lewandowski. Flick’s side still boasts enough firepower to overcome Marco Rose’s side, though the absence of the aforementioned duo will be keenly felt.
Leverkusen remain level on points with Mönchengladbach in the hunt for the final Champions League spots and will be hoping that Bayern hand out a similar punishment to them next weekend. This was a thorough shellacking for the side, and Bosz will need to rethink his defensive approach if he is ever to succeed at the highest level.
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