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Opinion

RB Leipzig prove they can win ugly too

The top two have struggled for form of late but while Bayern continued to pick up points, Leipzig's losing run meant their first real mental test. On Sunday, they passed - and showed there's still life in the title race.

When Jannik Vestergaard powered in a header to halve RB Leipzig's lead with 10 minutes remaining of Sunday's clash, there would've been plenty watching who would've sensed an equalizer was coming – not least the home fans, who turned up the volume both in hope and expectation.

But, despite coming in to the match on the back of consecutive league losses for the first time this season, RB held firm. If, as the cliché goes, title-winning teams pick up points when they're not at their best, then Ralph Hasenhüttl's side went some way towards proving their credentials on Sunday.

It was a game they had to win. When Bayern last dropped points, in a 1-1 draw with Schalke at the start of February, Leipzig lost. The Bavarians again dropped points against Hertha Berlin on Saturday but this time the Red Bulls took advantage of the slip up to move within five points of their rivals.

Breaking losing run more important than performance

This was a game of fine margins, against a side in good domestic form, that could have gone either way. That their display wasn't as commanding as some of their early season performances will be of little concern to Hasenhüttl and his men, as Timo Werner alluded to after the game.

"We took our chances and, as a result, we won," he said, in an acknowledgment of an even contest. If Werner makes it sound simple, it's not. Bayern have made an art of nicking close games, so much so that they've dug themselves out of a hole created by sub-par performances with last gasp goals in three of their five Bundesliga games since the winter break. Robert Lewandowski against Freiburg and Hertha and Arturo Vidal and Arjen Robben against Ingolstadt last week have earned them the five points that separate them from RB.

Those three are among Bayern's best performers this term and it was Leipzig's key men who stood up to be counted when their side needed them most on Sunday. Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg didn't see huge amounts of the ball but used it to devastating effect when they did, registering a goal and an assist each.

King Keita pushes his team forward

Further back, Naby Keita, the real heartbeat of this impressive young team, was back to somewhere near his best. The Guinean midfielder was everywhere in the first half. The 22-year-old had the tactical awareness to drop deeper when his side came under early pressure before starting to conduct his teammates with a series of probing forward passes. It was one of these that began the move that ended in the first goal and a typically committed interception that laid the ground for the second.

After a humbling home defeat to Hamburg last week, there were those who were prepared to write Leipzig off. But with Bayern showing some signs of complacency, in the Bundesliga at least, and Leipzig playing four of the bottom six in their next five matches, this confidence-boosting win must re-ignite hopes of the title challenge the league needs so badly.   

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