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Bayern held, but take ‘another big step’

A 1-1 draw away from home against the side lying third in the Bundesliga sent Bayern to the top of the table for the first time this season. You'd think the players and officials would have set off home to Munich late on Saturday evening in buoyant spirits, but it wasn't the case. “It feels like a defeat," said Thomas Müller, speaking for all his team-mates. “It really hurts, especially because we know we basically played brilliantly."

Wednesday's 3-1 triumph away to Manchester City was a compelling demonstration of Bayern's current strength. Most commentators agreed it would be hard to play much better. However, FCB were arguably even more convincing in Leverkusen on Saturday. The visitors maintained a 90-minute onslaught on the home goal, winning the shot count 27-5, sending over 31 crosses to their opponents’ four, and achieving 90 percent pass completion. However, there was only Toni Kroos’ 30th-minute effort to show for all the domination, and because Sidney Sam equalised barely a minute later with Leverkusen's only coherent attacking move of the match, FCB were left with just the single point.

“We tried everything and worked really hard. Sometimes you win when you've played badly. Today we were good but didn't win, and that's how it is sometimes," summarised Pep Guardiola, who sat in the dugout lost in thought for several minutes after the final whistle. “Normally it has to be 3-1 or even 4-1 at half-time," mused the outstanding Franck Ribéry. And Müller, who reprised his central striker role from the Man City clash, was almost inconsolable: “We simply failed to put away too many chances, myself included. As a striker, it's heartbreaking."

However, the frustration will quickly melt away, especially with the annual Oktoberfest visit scheduled for Sunday. “It's useless to curse our luck and bemoan our fate. It was just one of those days," commented Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who felt the important thing was the quality of the football. “And at the moment we're playing at the highest possible level," said the chairman. Guardiola also moved on to the positives: “The most important thing is that we are first in the table."

Praise from Leverkusen

Bayern now have 20 points after eight matches, one ahead of Dortmund and Leverkusen. After the two-week international break, FCB are at home in the Bundesliga twice in a row, against Mainz and Hertha Berlin. It is not an unkind schedule, especially as opponents are visibly in awe of the treble winners right now. “You watch their passing and it's just unbelievable," said Bayer centre back Omer Toprak, “and they're not just doing it against us, they do it in the Champions League as well."

Toprak's team-mate Stefan Reinartz agreed: “We spent the whole time chasing shadows." Former FCB man Emre Can thought Bayern were “outstanding" and confessed his new club had been “really lucky." Leverkusen’s excellent keeper Bernd Leno remarked: “I was under fire the whole time." And home boss Sami Hyypiä duly paid his tribute: “We knew we'd have to defend very well, but I never thought we'd put together so few attacking moves."

Fulsome praise all round for Bayern, who are now undefeated in an astonishing 33 Bundesliga matches. “We have to keep working like that and keep playing like that as a team," commented Ribéry. As Philipp Lahm noted approvingly, the players are increasingly getting to grips with Guardiola's tactics and playing style. Despite missing out on victory, the captain was upbeat: “We've taken another very big step this week."