Bayern Munich′s defense survives against a relentless Leverkusen | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 06.02.2016
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Bayern Munich's defense survives against a relentless Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen finally exposed Bayern Munich's thin defense, applying pressure that impacted both ends of the field. Bayern found some late chances, but it was not enough to maintain their winning streak.

Leverkusen accomplished something on Saturday evening few Bundesliga sides have managed season. Roger Schmidt's side made the defending-champions Bayern Munich fully aware of the extent of their defensive injury crisis. Schmidt was not shy throwing his players at Bayern when they were in possession, and Leverkusen forced several bad passes because of it. In fact, Bayern had the worst pass completion rate they've had this season, and only managed a season low nine shots.

Joshua Kimmich played his second straight game in defense, a matchup Leverkusen tried to exploit as often as possible. Kimmich's marking of Ömer Toprak during an early corner kick nearly lead to the opening goal. Stefan Kiessling tried to pick on Kimmich as well, and Toprak and Jonathan Tah launched the ball in his direction whenever they saw the 32-year-old striker in Kimmich's zip code.

Bayern are a team that can usually build attacks from the halfway line. Leverkusen's constant pressure forced the play back near Bayern's penalty area, with Kiessling and Christoph Kramer winning possession higher up the pitch. The most success Bayern had going forward was launching the ball down the flanks, hoping the pace and individual quality of Kingsley Coman and Arjen Robben would do the rest. Only a defensive gaffe from Toprak gave Bayern an opening in the first half, but Tin Jedvaj calmly cleared the cross away from Robert Lewandowski.

Flipping flanks to flip the script

The pace with which Leverkusen were pressing drained the energy out of Bayern's attack. Once the pressing lessened and fresh legs came on for Bayern, the Bavarians had an easier time moving up the field. Thomas Müller's arrival also caused Coman and Douglas Costa to swap roles, which meant the flanks were suddenly open for business.

Pep Guardiola's tactical switch opened up more attacking options for Bayern. However, Müller could not finish off the chances Coman and Costa created around the hour mark. Schmidt eventually countered by refreshing the wings for Leverkusen, Roberto Hilbert and Julian Brandt coming on to outnumber Bayern's speedsters in the wide areas. The second half changes for Leverkusen helped, but it was the defensive performances of Toprak and Tah that had the greatest impact.

The visitor's effort was nearly undone when Xabi Alonso got sent off for his second yellow card, but bending instead of breaking, Bayern's makeshift defense maintained their eight-point lead atop the Bundesliga table. For Leverkusen, the reward was more than just one point against the defending champions. It was evidence of how to make Bayern feel less like themselves.