FC Bayern Munich: The 'Good' Loss Against Leverkusen
Bayern lost 1-2 to Bayer Leverkusen Sunday. They remain at the top of the table and are allowed to slip up one more time as they lead second-place Schalke by four points. Frankfurt lost in the same manner as Bayern; Dortmund won.
Thus, Bayern's lead over BVB has been cut down to a mere nine points. This seems a lot like last season, but one shouldn't fear the repeat of that downfall.
Bayern's loss today was very similar to a match they lost to Hannover, 2-1, last season. A home loss is always alarming, but today the classic "Bayern Dusel" really deserted the lads from Munich.
In terms of statistics, the match wasn't even close. However, the statistics are always in favour of Bayern. There are both positives and negatives to take away from this one.
1) Manuel Neuer had his first brilliant game in a Bayern shirt since the Champions League final. Even though Neuer conceded two goals, he was flawless today. He didn't get one punch right, but aside from that, he made multiple saves. He showed Arjen Robben and Co. how it's done towards the end as he made his way through a maze of players. Unfortunately, Claudio Pizarro's effort, which he helped set up, hit the bar.
2) Jupp Heynckes made the correct substitutions. Heynckes is rarely credited for this. However, his decisions to bring in Robben and Pizarro as well as substitute Holger Badstuber were all correct ones. Pizarro set up Mario Mandzukic for the equalizer and almost scored Bayern's second equalizer in the dying seconds.
3) Bayern approached a deficit in the proper manner. Against BATE, Bayern looked miserable. Today, Bayern created plenty of chances and should have equalized. Philipp Lahm especially put in a few tantalizing crosses and passes only for Thomas Muller or Mandzukic to miss. The football played was great through the 90 minutes.
4) Arjen Robben had a great game on his return. He played some beautiful passes and with more time might have notched up a goal. It is a pleasure to have him back, especially ahead of next week's visit of Lille. Bayern was doing fine without him. They will perhaps step up a notch on his return.
5) Jerome Boateng and Dante both played reasonably well. They dealt with plenty of Leverkusen attacks. David Alaba looked slightly rusty but was still filled with energy. The whole team was vibrant today, and Bastian Schweinsteiger as well as Toni Kroos were unlucky not to have scored today. Luck really deserted Bayern, as a deflection that could have gone into the net hit the post and skidded out.
1) While the second goal was unlucky, both Holger Badstuber and Lahm were at fault for the first one. They could have done more to help Neuer out. Lahm could have beaten Stefan Kiessling to it as he is agile enough. Even the second one from Sidney Sam could have been prevented, although Boateng was unlucky on that occasion. It seems that the first choice defence will consist of Lahm, Dante, Boateng and Alaba from now on.
2) Muller has the determination and pace but can improve his passing. On one occasion, a break was on the cards, and Muller's pass saw the ball bounce up on the pitch and end up with a Leverkusen player. The conditions weren't great, but on that occasion, had Muller made that pass, Bayern could have won the game or at least taken a point. This was before they scored the equalizer, though.
3) Xherdan Shaqiri is not exactly having the kind of impact he had on his first days at the club. Shaqiri will get a chance to impress in midweek, and he did set up Kroos with a glorious pass, but the winger is capable of so much more than he displayed. He shouldn't have dived to earn a penalty when he had the perfect chance to score.
4) Bayern must improve their play on set pieces. Kroos' deliveries are usually good, but they were definitely not on the money today. He earned a corner towards the end, but that went to waste too. Leverkusen is nervy at the back, and Bayern should have "bullied" them during set pieces, for the lack of a better word. Borussia Dortmund destroyed them 3-0 recently.
So, finally, this is Bayern's first league loss since they lost to Dortmund last season. Thus, Bayern had been undefeated in 12 Bundesliga games. Eleven of those were wins. They lost to a good opponent on Sunday. On another day, with these stats, Bayern would have hammered Leverkusen.
Nonetheless, a hugely important week is coming up. Bayern first plays Kaiserslautern in the cup this Wednesday. The Pokal is always fun. Let's hope Bayern rebounds quickly.
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