The first game of the Bundesliga season saw defending champions Bayern Munich beat Bayer Leverkusen by 3-1 in relatively convincing fashion. Carlo Ancelotti’s youngsters put on a show which bodes the Bavarians well going into the campaign. Bayern started lined up in a somewhat rotated 4-3-3 formation, the home side were home side was without Manuel Neuer, who is still recovering from his foot injury, 29-year-old Sven Ulreich started under the sticks.
A four-man back line of Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Sule, Mats Hummels, and David Alaba anchored down the defensive third while directly in front of them were the trio of Sebastian Rudy, positioned at the base of midfield, Corentin Tolisso playing slightly higher up and Arturo Vidal spent much of the match going box to box. The front three featured. Finally, Bayern Munich’s front three was made up of Frank Ribery on the left, Robert Lewandowski in the center, and Thomas Muller out on the right, with a license to drift centrally.
Bayern Munich’s Analysis:
Early on in the game, saw much of what we expect from Bayern Munich. David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich both made their way up the flanks throughout the match, overloading the wings. This allowed for the attacking wingers, Ribery and Muller to drift inside and attack more centrally. Bayern’s first goal was headed in by Niklas Sule off of an inch-perfect Sebastian Rudy free kick, won by Frank Ribery. Alaba fed the ball to Ribery and sprinted up the left-wing to the outside of the French international. Ribery took a touch inside and very adeptly drew the foul.
A few minutes later, a quick one-two between Lewandowski and Kimmich on the right-wing resulted in a Munich corner. Kimmich’s cross eventually fell to Arturo Vidal who played a simple lobbed ball on to the head of Tolisso. Just like that, the home side took a 2-0 lead.
Offensively, the following fifteen minutes resulted in several more chances for Bayern Munich. Tolisso missed a tap-in off of a very impressive passing display, Muller and Ribery suffered a couple of miscommunications, and Vidal mis-controlled a long pass in the box. After those fifteen minutes, the Munich attack settled down for the rest of the half.
Defensively, Ancelotti’s side, however, was relatively unimpressive throughout the whole game. Alaba was caught out a few times on counter attacks, Hummels and Sule clearly didn’t have a well-established relationship in central defense, and Ulreich played within his means, making some good saves as well as mistakes over the course of 90 minutes.
Only a few minutes into the second half, the newly adopted VAR technology awarded a penalty to Bayern which Lewandowski promptly buried to make it 3-0. Immediately after the goal, Bayern had their worst stretch of defending in the entire game. They were caught out on the counter attack several times only to be saved by Ulreich who was trying to do his best Manuel Neuer impression.
There wasn’t much else of note, attacking wise, in the second half. Arjen Robben was subbed on for Muller, Kingsley Coman came on for Ribery and provided fresh legs out on the left. The home side continued to get the occasional chance by working the ball through the wings and overloading Leverkusen’s outside backs, before crossing the ball in from the goal line or the top of the box.
Defensively, Rafina came on for Mats Hummels, shifting David Alaba over to center back. A few minutes after the substitution, Bayern Munich’s defense was exposed one final time. This time, it wasn’t on the counter. Leverkusen simply passed through a set of their opponents defense on their way to goal.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Set Up:
Leverkusen went with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Bernd Leno in-goal for the away side. In front of him was the young back line of Benjamin Henrichs, Jonathan Tah, Sven Bender, and Wendell. Up the field, Dominik Khor and Charles Aranguiz made up the bank of two directly above the Leverkusen defense. FFinally, moving to the attack, the trio of Leon Bailey, Karim Bellarabi, and Admit Mehmedi patrolled the attacking third, right under lone striker Kevin Volland.
Unfortunately for Leverkusen, Bayern were on top of their game in the first half. Leverkusen had to face a series of bombarded attacks on Leno’s goal throughout the first third of the game. Between some suspect goalkeeping and an extremely young backline, the first 30 minutes of the game was torrid for the away side.
Finally, after only a few glimpses of offense by Bellerabi and Kevin Volland early on, Leverkusen was able to settle in to the game. Heiko Herrlich’s side started to work the attack through the right-wing, involving Henrichs, Bailey, Bellerabi, and Volland in some promising link-up play.
Into the second half, Aleksandar Dragovic came on for Sven Bender at center back and young star Julian Brandt came on for Leon Bailey. In addition to substitutions, Leverkusen began the second half in a high press. The results of these changes were almost immediately evident. Bayer started receiving the ball higher up the field and Brandt made some instant impact driving inside from the left-wing, providing a much-needed offensive spark.
Minutes later, Leverkusen’s comeback hopes took a huge blow. In the Bundesliga’s first-ever VAR incident, Bayern were awarded a penalty. Charles Aranguiz was called for yanking Robert Lewandowski’s arm in the box. A minute or so later after consulting with the booth in Cologne, Lewandowski buried his first goal of the season. 3-0 Bayern.
Despite being by that scoreline, Leverkusen proceeded to have their best offensive stretch of the entire game. They were able to repeatedly expose Munich on the counter attack and they finally got a goal of their own. Julian Brandt laid the ball of for Mehmedi, who banged in a fantastic strike from the edge of the area.
After getting themselves on the board, Leverkusen showed the rest of the Bundesliga exactly what makes them so dangerous. Attack after attack, the away side showed a load of promise in the attacking third. Their high press continued to chip away at Bayern’s attempts to build from the back. While they didn’t score any more, the second half was a much more positive forty-five minutes.
Bayern, no doubt are heavy favorites to win the league. Their attack is extremely potent and their midfield has more depth and talent this season than last year’s title-winning team. Their only apparent area of weakness is their defense. Time after time, especially in the second half, Munich were either caught out by Leverkusen on the counter or simply lazy too stepping to the ball.
The defending Champions were dominant on set pieces as teh game showed. Their first two goals came from a free kick and a corner respectively. There is no doubt, set pieces are going to be an asset this year for Munich, just like last season. Bayern’s trio of newcomers is going to feature quite a bit this season. Tolisso was fantastic and the former Hoffenheim pair Sule and Rudy both had some positive moments throughout the game.
On the other hand, Leverkusen have raw potential with an extremely young side, with loads of quick attacking talent. While it still remains to be seen who will be able to replace Javier Hernandez’s production up top, Leverkusen will certainly be able to score goals this season. Speaking of Bayer’s attacking talent, Julian Brandt played a wonderful 45 minutes. Coming on at half time, the 21-year-old made an instant impact for his team while Leno, who struggled heavily, will need to raise his game if Leverkusen wants to compete for a European spot come at the end of teh campaign.