Frustrated FCB intend to bounce back quickly
The atmosphere was gloomy as the Bayern players boarded the plane back to Munich on Saturday evening. The 3-1 defeat at Bayer 04 Leverkusen still had to be processed and digested. "Obviously we're disappointed with the result," Thomas Müller said, "we have to absorb that first. The game could have gone in any direction, but it ended badly for us."
At the start, things didn't look too bad for the Reds. The Werkself started the game with a lot of momentum, but the record champions stood firm and created some good scoring opportunities. The 1-0 lead through a Leon Goretzka goal in the 41st minute was the logical consequence of that. But more goals were not forthcoming, in part because two minutes into injury time and just before the referee blew for half-time, Robert Lewandowski was shown to be offside by the slightest of margins. His strike to make it 2-0 was annulled after confirmation by the video referee.
Key opportunities missed - effective hosts
"We played well in the first half and Leverkusen's game just didn't function. We should have sealed the victory," reflected head coach Niko Kovac afterwards, referring to the other good opportunities for Kingsley Coman in the 13th, 32nd, 40th and 44th minutes, Lewandowski in the 15th, and Goretzka in the 26th. "We should have rewarded ourselves for the effort we made. And if we had done, we wouldn't be here now talking about the second half," the clearly annoyed coach remarked.
For the game turned in the second half. The ratio of shots on target before the break was 5:0 from Bayern's point of view, but it was 1:4 after changing ends. From those four shots on Sven Ulreich's goal, Leverkusen put three past the man who was deputising for the injured Manuel Neuer. Goals from Leon Bailey (after 53 minutes), Kevin Volland (in the 63rd) and Lucas Alaric three minutes from full-time turned the game on its head.
"They took the fight out of us and stopped us from getting into our game," sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic remarked. "We lost our compact formation, and a few mistakes helped our opponents score their goals," Kovac analysed afterwards. Consequently, the Reds ended up with no points. "It's very bitter that we couldn't win the game," stated Müller, who took Neuer's place and led the team onto the pitch as captain. Due to Borussia Mönchengladbach's 2-0 win at Schalke, Bayern have now slipped to third place in the table.
But nobody wants to stick their head in the snow, which has been piling up by the metre again in Munich since Sunday. "None of us is happy, but we'll crack on. There are still 14 games with 42 points up for grabs," said Salihamidzic, showing his fighting spirit. "We'll take a look at the table. That'll have to give us the motivation to step things up," Kovac agreed. "We'll work through the game, analyse it and address the issues," the coach continued. The next match is on Wednesday in Berlin, when the record DFB cup winners will face Hertha BSC in the last sixteen of this year's competition.
"We must focus on that," Müller demanded - and that's the advantage of having a midweek game. The team has to quickly forget the Leverkusen clash and can regain their confidence with a good performance just a few days later. On Sunday, the four stars who missed out with injury the day before were able to train with the team again, and this improved everyone's mood a little. Kovac also set out the next target: "After seven wins in a row, we suffered a defeat, which is annoying. But now we have to start a new run."