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FCB go top but rue host of missed chances

The FCB stars will make Sunday’s annual trip to the Oktoberfest as Bundesliga leaders after Pep Guardiola’s team went top of the standings on Saturday with a 1-1 draw away to third-placed Bayer Leverkusen. The treble winners extended their unbeaten league run to 33 games in the process, but will be kicking themselves for not taking all three points after creating but missing a host of chances against the outclassed home team.

The 30,210 full house at the BayArena saw the champions turn the screw from the start and take an overdue lead through Toni Kroos after 29 minutes, but Sidney Sam levelled the scores with the home side’s first chance just 120 seconds later. The scoreline barely reflected a one-sided first 45 minutes, and Bayern sought to correct that by mounting a remorseless assault on the Bayer goal after the restart, only for Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno to make a string of fine saves and Munich’s normally reliable strikers to have a poor day at the office.

With Borussia Dortmund beaten for the first time this season in a 2-0 reverse away to Mönchengladbach, the point in Leverkusen sends FCB clear at the top of the table on 20 points, one ahead of BVB and Bayer. The Bundesliga now enters a two-week international break, before the Bavarians return to top flight action on Saturday 19 October at home to struggling Mainz.

 

Shaq in for Arjen

Guardiola made one change to the team that comprehensively outplayed Manchester City in the midweek Champions League gala, bringing in Xherdan Shaqiri for Arjen Robben, with the Dutchman, Mario Götze and Mario Mandzukic starting on the bench.

The visitors lined up with Manuel Neuer in goal, Rafinha, Jerome Boateng, Dante and David Alaba in defence, Philipp Lahm in the holding position he so brilliantly filled at the Eithad Stadium, Shaqiri and Franck Ribery on the flanks, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Kroos in the centre, and Thomas Müller in a roving false nine role.

Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypia, the former Liverpool stalwart who actually played on the same team as Kroos when the midfielder spent a season with Bayer in 2010, sent out a typically attacking line-up with former FCB talent Emre Can and Germany newcomer Sam out wide, seeking to supply centre-forward Stefan Kießling, last season’s leading scorer in the Bundesliga.

Kroos and Sam trade goals

After referee Knut Kircher whistled the match underway on a mild evening in the Rhineland, Guardiola’s side instantly picked up where they left off on Wednesday evening in north-west England and seized control of possession, Kroos dragging the first chance across the face of Bernd Leno’s goal after eight minutes, and Müller shanking a golden opportunity wide from Shaqiri’s dinked cross three minutes later.

The visitors kept up the pressure and Leno needed two bites of the cherry before gathering Ribery’s cut-back at Shaq’s feet, the effervescent Ribery brushed off two challenges before skidding a shot inches wide of the post, and Leno beat away Schweinsteiger’s fierce half-volley as the midpoint of the first half approached.

Ribery it was who provided the assist, superb in its simplicity, for Kroos to open the scoring on the half-hour with a precise side-footed shot into the roof of the net from 12 yards. But the lead only lasted a minute as Sam was on hand to turn the rebound over the line after Neuer could only parry Sebastian Boenisch’s angled drive, with the FCB defence out of shape for the first time in the match.

The visitors should have retaken the lead on 36 minutes but Müller headed wide with the goal gaping after great work by Ribery and Alaba. Müller skied the next opening from another Ribery chip, although it was a difficult volleyed chance on the turn, and Leno fisted aside a thumping Shaqiri drive before Mr Kircher blew for half-time.

Leno versus FCB

FCB picked up where they left off after the restart, but Kircher waved aside Müller’s justified shout for a penalty after a rough challenge by Omer Toprak and Ribery’s six-yard shot was blocked. Leno turned Shaqiri’s wickedly curling free-kick away for a corner, Dante headed straight at the Bayer keeper, and Giulio Donate hacked Ribery’s flick off the line.

The pressure was relentless, but Leno got down well to Ribery’s stunning volley and then blocked the Frenchman’s blistering shot after 59 minutes. The chances kept on coming, but Shaqiri missed a glorious opportunity on the hour after Müller’s cunning dummy, and the Germany striker contrived to head against Boenisch from just three yards out after Alaba’s dart to the by-line.

Guardiola opted for a change after 71 minutes and sent on Robben for Shaqiri, the Dutch ace making an early impression but mis-hitting his first chance wide of the near post. Leno saved Robben’s 78th-minute free-kick at the foot of the post, but there was a rare intervention for Neuer when Kießling flicked a header towards goal, before Mandzukic and Götze replaced Müller and Kroos for the closing stages. Leno saved from Robben yet again as FCB pressed for a late winner, but Götze’s stoppage-time effort was cleared off the line and the champions were forced to settle for a single point which should in all honestly have been three.

Chris Hamley reporting from the BayArena for fcbayern.de

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