FC Bayern dropped points for the first time after the winter break on Saturday when the Bundesliga leaders were held to a 1-1 home draw by Schalke 04. Robert Lewandowski opened the scoring eight minutes into the contest, but the Royal Blues' centre-back Naldo levelled the scores from a set-piece four minutes later. The battling visitors then stifled the subdued home side until the closing stages, when Bayern came within inches of claiming a win only for luck to desert them.
The champions started with ex-Schalke man Manuel Neuer between the sticks and a back four comprising Rafinha, Javi Martínez, Mats Hummels and Juan Bernat. Xabi Alonso, Arturo Vidal and Thomas Müller took up station in midfield, with Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa out on the wings looking to serve orthodox centre-forward Lewandowski.
Boss Carlo Ancelotti made four changes to the team that saw off Bremen last weekend. Rafinha and Bernat replaced Philipp Lahm and David Alaba in the rearguard, whereas Vidal took over from Joshua Kimmich in central midfield and Costa from Franck Ribéry on the left wing.
Lewy opens, Royal Blues reply
The 75,000 capacity crowd saw an entertaining, up-tempo contest with the record champions dominating possession at the start. Bayern drew first blood after eight minutes, when Vidal set up Lewandowski who raced clear and chipped the ball over visiting netminder Ralf Fährmann and over the line. But the day soon turned sour as Naldo overcame Neuer, who looked a shade unlucky, with a curling free-kick from 25 yards.
The visitors took heart from the goal, and the former Schalke netminder soon performed miracles to deny Kolasinac, atoning for the equaliser. Juan Bernat drew a fine save from Fährmann midway through the second half but the Royal Blues increasingly shone with a solid rearguard, pacy approach play and dangerous counter-attacks, with Holger Badstuber, who joined Schalke on loan from Bayern just a few weeks ago, particularly industrious. Leon Goretzka blasted over the bar on the half-hour before Guido Burgstaller directed a drive onto the bar. Three minutes later the woodwork rattled at the other end, Lewandowski's curler crashing off the crossbar and away to safety.
Tense closing stages
The pace dropped a little after the interval. Lewandowski set up Robben on the right, but the linesman raised his flag for offside. Five minutes later Bentaleb found the net with the help of a deflection, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Ancelotti brought on Kingsley Coman for Robben midway through the second half in an effort to raise the momentum. Alaba and milestone man Philipp Lahm, who made his 500th competitive appearance in a Bayern shirt, came on for Bernat and Rafinha with 15 minutes to go.
The Bavarians upped the pressure in the closing stages and laid siege to the visitors' box, Alonso and Martínez missing presentable chances before Müller was felled by Nastasic in the box, but Bayern were denied what looked like a clear penalty. Munich pressed on but somehow failed to convert an impressive display in the final quarter-hour into a victory.
The result means Bayern have 46 points from 19 matches, four clear of RB Leipzig who cross swords with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday evening. The Reds are back in action in just three days, when they entertain Wolfsburg in the DFB Cup last sixteen before travelling to face Ingolstadt in the Bundesliga next Saturday.
Live match report for fcbayern.com by Gregor Salmen
FC Bayern - Schalke 04 1-1 (H-T: 1-1)
Neuer - Rafinha (Lahm 77), Martínez, Hummels, Bernat (Alaba 77) - Xabi Alonso, Vidal - Robben (Coman 72), Müller, Douglas Costa - Lewandowski
Ulreich - Thiago, Sanches, Benko
Fährmann - Höwedes, Naldo, Badstuber (Nastasic 59) - Stambouli, Kolasinac - Schöpf, Caligiuri - Bentaleb, Goretzka (Kehrer 87) - Burgstaller (Choupo-Moting 73)
Nübel - Geis, Konoplyanka, Avdijai
Marco Fritz (Korb)
|Goals||1-0 Lewandowski (9), 1-1 Naldo (13)|
Bentaleb / Martínez