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Stalemate in top match

Ten-man Reds earn point in Leverkusen

Bayern dropped points in the league for only the third time this term but still remain on course for a record fourth Bundesliga title on the bounce after a hard-earned goalless draw in Saturday evening’s top Bundesliga clash away to high-flying Bayer Leverkusen, a result that sees Pep Guardiola’s team retain their eight-point lead at the top of the standings

The 30,210 full house at the BayArena saw the visitors enjoy much more of the ball but fail to create any openings worthy of the name in a first half long on aggression but short on chances. That all changed after the break in a much more open contest with sub Thomas Müller missing a couple of gilt-edged openings for the Reds, before the champions survived a tense finish following Xabi Alonso’s 84th-minute sending off for a second bookable offence.

FCB’s second draw in the 2015/16 campaign, combined with Dortmund’s goalless result away to third-placed Hertha Berlin, sees the Reds move onto 53 points and maintain their eight-point lead over BVB in the table. The Bavarians are back in action on Wednesday evening in the DFB Cup trip to second-tier VfL Bochum.

Arturo in for Thomas

Bayern coach Guardiola made a single change to the team that beat Hoffenheim 2-0 at home last week, bringing in Arturo Vidal for Müller. That meant Joshua Kimmich continued alongside Holger Badstuber in central defence in the absence of Jerome Boateng over the long term and the temporary loss of Javi Martinez and new boy Serdar Tasci to less serious injuries.

The champions began with Manual Neuer in goal, David Alaba, Badstuber, Kimmich and captain Philipp Lahm in the back four, Alonso in the holding role, Kingsley Coman, Vidal, Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben in attack, and Robert Lewandowski at centre-forward.

First-half stalemate

After referee Knut Kircher whistled play underway on a clear and unseasonably mild evening in the Rhineland, the sides spent the first ten minutes feeling each other out in a scrappy opening, with home skipper Ömer Toprak nodding the first chance over Neuer’s bar from a corner.

Coman was looking lively out on the left and won a corner after showing Jonathan Tah a clean pair of heels, but Robben skewed his volley wide after the ball was half-cleared. Tah made amends with a last-ditch tackle to halt the charging Lewandowski, before Robben came up inches short of connecting with a neat Alaba chip.

But Bayer pressed aggressively and made life tough for Guardiola’s men, who enjoyed more of the possession but were unable to fashion anything by way of clear-cut openings. At the other end Mexican star Chicharito floated a cross-cum-shot wide of Neuer’s goal, but the sides continued to cancel each other out and the contest remained goalless at half-time.

Reds salvage a point

The champions sought to up the pace in the second half but the going remained tough and Guardiola sent on Thiago for Vidal in the 52nd minute. Chicharito tried his luck from distance but Neuer had it covered, before Robben scorched clear onto a pass from defence only to be denied by a last-ditch Wendell tackle.

Müller took over from Robben on the hour but Roger Schmidt’s home team enjoyed a good spell of pressure and Badstuber and Co were kept busy for a time. The champions responded with a fast break and Müller whistled a volley from Coman’s centre inches too high, with the Germany striker guilty of an even more glaring miss when Costa’s cut-back left him with a clear sight of goal from ten yards out.

Thiago and Lewandowski both saw shots blocked as the visitors camped out in their opponents’ half, with Costa presenting an increasing threat down the left, and Toprak was forced into a couple of crucial interventions to keep Bayer from falling behind. Lewandowski miscued from close range but there was drama in the 84th minute when Alonso was dismissed for a second bookable offence. Sebastian Rode replaced Coman as the Reds looked to salvage the draw, but the sub almost struck at once with a low shot and the visitors ultimately saw it through to the final whistle without further damage.

Chris Hamley reporting from the BayArena for fcbayern.de

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