Having laboured to a single-goal win over Hertha BSC the week before FC Bayern München were pitted in the late Saturday afternoon Spitzenspiel against third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, and once again claimed all three points with relative ease – though there was more than the odd scare to keep Pep Guardiola’s side on their toes.
The Bayern coach made just one change to the eleven that had started the previous week in Berlin, with Medhi Benatia returning in place of Danté in the centre of the four-man back line. While Bayern were looking at maintaining their seven point lead over VfL Wolfsburg, a win for Roger Schmidt’s side would take them back into third place ahead of surprise package FC Augsburg who had claimed all three points in Köln earlier in the afternoon.
It was the visitors who created the first genuine opportunity. With just three minutes on the clock a defensive mix-up involving the usually reliable Jérôme Boateng and Xabi Alonso let in the pacy Karim Bellarabi, and Leverkusen’s German international did everything right in dinking the ball over Manuel Neuer only for Juan Bernat to swipe the ball off the line and save the home side’s blushes.
Bayern initially struggled to establish themselves against the opponents’ high attacking line, and Leverkusen came close again when South Korean Heung-Min Son’s cross was just a little to firm for striker Stefan Kießling. However by the twenty minute mark things were back under control, with Die Roten looking far more threatening and bossing the possession.
‘Keeper Manuel Neuer was called upon to perform more Libero duties as Leverkusen briefly threatened to unshackle themselves from Bayern’s tightening grip, and at the other end the home side’s dominance would begin to show as Arjen Robben had the ball in the back of the net only to have what looked to have been a perfectly legitimate goal chalked off for a foul on ‘keeper Bernd Leno.
Half time saw the disappointingly anonymous Mario Götze replaced by Sebastian Rode, and the hard-working ex-Frankfurt man was quickly in on the action, winning a corner just six minutes after the break. Robben’s short kick found Rafinha, and the Brazilian’s cross into the box was nodded on for Alonso who in turn found Franck Ribéry in space. The Frenchman struck the ball sharply on the volley with his left foot to finally break the deadlock – and with it notch his one-hundredth goal for FC Bayern.
Frank Ribéry celebrates his fifty-first minute winner, which was also his 100th goal for FC Bayern
Having taken the lead Bayern quickly switched up a gear, creating far more opportunities as they sought to double their advantage. Leno turned a looping Thomas Müller effort onto the post and Robben saw one of his trademark left-footed crackers gloved over the crossbar by the Bayer ‘keeper, but the best chance fell to Robert Lewandowski – who could only find the side netting when it looked far easier to score.
With the visitors unable to match their earlier work rate Bayern were able to things slow down and pass the ball around at will, upping their possession statistics and seeing the game out easily. In the end it had been a straightforward win against a decent if slightly limited opponent, with Guardiola’s side extending their unbeaten league run and securing their tenth home win on the bounce.
Bayern now look forward to closing off the Champions’ League group phase campaign at home to CSKA Moskva, before travelling a short distance up the road to take on local rivals Augsburg – now sitting in an impressive third place.
Bundesliga Week 14
Allianz Arena, München, 06.12.2014
FC Bayern 1:0 (0:0) Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Ribéry 51. / –
FC Bayern: Neuer – Rafinha, Benatia, Boateng, Bernat – Alonso – Robben, Ribéry – Götze (46. Rode) – Müller (88. Schweinsteiger), Lewandowski (90.+2. Højbjerg)
Leverkusen: Leno – Jedvaj, Toprak, Spahić, Wendell – L. Bender (62. Rolfes), Castro – Bellarabi, Çalhanoğlu, Son (62. Drmić) – Kießling (75. R. Kruse)
Yellow Cards: – / Son, Castro, Bellarabi