Injuries overshadow home win over Leverkusen

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Bayern made it five wins from five games under Niko Kovac and maintained their perfect start to the season – but there was no exuberance from anyone involved in Saturday’s 3-1 success at home to Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The victory came at a heavy price, with both Corentin Tolisso and Rafinha suffering serious injuries. “I’m very sad and disappointed that we have two injured players after the game,” said a dismayed Kovac after the match. “The result is certainly positive for us but my mood is dampened.”

The Brazilian full-back is set to be out for several weeks with an ankle injury caused by a foul from Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi, while Tolisso’s cruciate ligament rupture will keep him out for months. Along with Kingsley Coman, who suffered a syndesmosis ligament tear against Hoffenheim on Matchday 1, it means Bayern already have three long-term casualties in the treatment room. “It’s obviously a big blow. We’ve paid a heavy price in the last few games,” commented sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.  

Tolisso initiates comeback

Tolisso, who made his first start since winning the World Cup with France in the summer, was enjoying an impressive comeback. The 24-year-old levelled for the Reds just five minutes after Wendell’s early opener from the penalty spot, and he was constantly involved in attack – until the shock just before half-time. “We’re sad as well,” said Niklas Süle on the serious injury to his teammate, who twisted his knee in a tackle. “But I reckon he has the mental strength to deal with it and come back stronger,” added Süle.

By the time Tolisso was forced off, Bayern had already gone 2-1 up through Arjen Robben’s goal in the 19th minute. James, who replaced Tolisso, wrapped up the three points shortly before the final whistle. The Werkself did little to resist the defeat, preferring instead to limit the damage with their defensive approach. “When Bayern play like they did today, at such a high level, it’s extremely difficult no matter what tactics you adopt,” admitted striker Kevin Volland.

Robben wonder goal proves turning point

In the end, the result was never in danger and it was another good performance from Bayern, even if they’re thinner on numbers going into the start of a busy period. “We need every player,” declared Robben. “It’s not about 11 or 15, it’s about everyone. Including today we have seven games in the space of 20 days. That’s a lot, so you need all your strength.” It was even more important, therefore, that the veteran could once again be relied upon. The 34-year-old was at the heart of FCB’s attacking play, taking six shots on goal – twice as many as the entire Leverkusen team. One of them, a stunning volley from just inside the area, made it 2-1 and put his side on course for victory.

“It was quite good,” said the evergreen Dutchman with a grin. It was his 140th competitive goal for the record German champions, drawing him level with Giovane Elber in seventh place in the club’s all-time ranking. “At the moment I don’t feel like a 34-year-old. I’m enjoying myself and long may it continue,” Robben later added. That was also the view of Salihamidzic. “That’s exactly what we want from Arjen. He played brilliantly, scored a great goal – it’s enjoyable to watch him like that.”

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