Irresistible FC Bayern beat RB Leipzig 3-0 in Wednesday evening's Bundesliga cracker and will spend the winter break three points clear of their defeated pursuers. Thiago, Xabi Alonso and Robert Lewandowski scored in a mesmeric first half from a Bayern point of view. The Reds' victory in the "Christmas final" (Karl-Heinz Rummenigge) means they have taken "more than three points," as Thomas Müller said in the build-up to the match, referring to "prestige."
The record champions started with Manuel Neuer between the sticks behind a back four comprising Philipp Lahm, Javi Martínez, Mats Hummels and David Alaba. Thiago, Alonso and Arturo Vidal took up station in midfield, with Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa out on the wings looking to serve orthodox centre-forward Lewandowski.
Carlo Ancelotti made two changes to the team that saw off Darmstadt on Sunday. Skipper Lahm and Robben took over from Juan Bernat and Thomas Müller. Franck Ribéry came on at half-time, with Bernat and Joshua Kimmich replacing Alaba and Vidal midway through the second half.
Thiago, Xabi, Lewy
The first chance fell to the visitors, but Christian Poulsen failed to connect with Timo Werner's cross after three minutes. The Bavarians increasingly took control and their dominance paid off when Lewandowski hit the post and Thiago netted the rebound after the quarter-hour. Visiting netminder Gulacsi proved equal to Costa's curling 15-yarder one minute later, but the Reds went two up when Vidal picked up Naby Keita's poor pass in midfield, and Thiago invited Alonso to steer the ball past Gulacsi into the far corner after 25 minutes. RB were not out of it yet though and Neuer performed miracles to save Orban's header before the half-hour.
The hosts launched a counter-attack after the ensuing corner, but Emil Forsberg stopped a galloping Philipp Lahm by means of a bad foul. The 75,000 capacity crowd replied with raucous dismay before match official Felix Zwayer issued Forsberg his marching orders after consulting his assistants. Shortly before the interval Gulacsi felled Costa in the box, with Lewandowski netting the ensuing penalty.
If pace and cold-hearted punishment of mistakes were the key factors that made the visitors so successful during the first half of the season, Bayern proved masters of these disciplines on this particular night. The German record champions dominated possession, but they were not slowly working their way up the field with sustained passing combinations as usual. Instead, they waited for the visitors to make mistakes before seeking to punish them mercilessly with pinpoint passes and lightning-quick play.
Reds ease off after the break
If the first half was an impressive demonstration of clout by the Munich men, the second half was a slow-burning sequel against decimated opponents. Gulacsi proved equal to a Lewandowski effort five minutes into the second half before Leipzig forward Marcel Sabitzer fired a 20-yarder which was deflected, skidding wide on the hour. Lewandowski's fine lob went over the crossbar midway through the second half. In the closing stages Gulacsi saved from a Costa free-kick before Ribéry hit the bar, Thiago missing the rebound.
The result means Bayern top the table during the winter break, three points clear of Leipzig. FCB fans can enjoy football on 14 January 2017, when the Reds contest the Telekom Cup in Düsseldorf. The German record champions are back in Bundesliga action on 20 January, when they travel to face SC Freiburg, buoyed by a three-point edge over Leipzig in the table and, of course, the prestige from Wednesday's victory.
Live match report for fcbayern.com by Gregor Salmen
FC Bayern - RB Leipzig 3-0 (H-T: 3-0)
Neuer - Lahm, Martínez, Hummels, Alaba (Bernat 67) - Thiago, Alonso, Vidal (Kimmich 75) - Robben (Ribéry 46), Lewandowski, Costa
Ulreich - Rafinha, Müller, Sanches
Gulacsi - Bernardo, Ilsanker, Orban, Halstenberg - Keita (Kaiser 46), Demme - Sabitzer (Burke 82), Forsberg - Werner (Selke 59), Poulsen
Müller - Schmitz, Kalmar, Khedira
Felix Zwayer (Berlin)
|Goals||1-0 Thiago (17), 2-0 Alonso (25), 3-0 Lewandowski (45, pen)|
Vidal (56) / Sabitzer (58)
|Red card||- / Forsberg (30)|