FC Bayern and Bayer Leverkusen shared the spoils in Saturday evening's top Bundesliga clash. The German record champions were utterly dominant after a slow-burning first half, Alaba, Vidal and Costa missing gilt-edged chances before the break. The hosts went a man down after the restart and Bayern kept looking for the opener, but Lady Luck let them down and a goal just refused to come.
The reigning champions started with Manuel Neuer between the sticks and Rafinha, Javi Martínez, David Alaba and Juan Bernat in a back four. Joshua Kimmich and Arturo Vidal featured in a twin holding role behind Kingsley Coman, Thiago and Douglas Costa, with Thomas Müller as lone striker.
Carlo Ancelotti shuffled his deck, making five changes to the XI that crossed swords with Real Madrid. Coman, Kimmich, Rafinha, Bernat and Costa took over from Philipp Lahm, Jérôme Boateng, Xabi Alonso, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, while two rather unfamiliar faces could be seen on the sidelines, reserve players Nicolas Feldhahn and Raphael Obermair starting on the bench.
Reds lack momentum, then luck
The 30,210 capacity crowd at the BayArena saw the record champions dominate proceedings but fail to create anything of attacking note at first. Both sides alternated patience and pressure in a dour first half-hour, and Neuer was the busier of the two keepers. Kevin Volland almost took possession in a very promising position after eight minutes, but Rafinha nicked the ball off his feet. 10 minutes later Bernat warmed the gloves of Leverkusen netminder Bernd Leno from 20 yards.
Bayern's passing was awry at first, likely due to the somewhat unfamiliar line-up, but the champions increasingly gained a grip, building up a real head of first-half steam. There were two mix-ups in the hosts' box in quick succession, Alaba seeing two efforts blocked before a Vidal header was scrambled off the goal-line. Coman will have been disappointed not to do better five minutes later, when Leno denied the Frenchman's effort from point-blank range. A Thiago effort and a number of long-range shots fired by Vidal and Costa went over the bar, the contest remaining goalless before match official Daniel Siebert blew for half-time.
Goals refuse to come against decimated Leverkusen
After the restart Ancelotti's troops picked up where they left off, Müller connecting with a Costa cross but miscuing his volley, the contest remaining long on chances for Bayern but short on goals. Müller then raced clear to get hold of a through-ball, but hesitated as the angle was tight and the chance was gone.
Leverkusen's Tin Jedvaj earned his marching orders for a second bookable offence on the hour before Ancelotti played his first card, Robben taking over from Costa. The substitution meant the Dutch winger reached a milestone, making his 250th appearance wearing Bayern colours. Toprak blocked a Müller effort before Robben was hustled off the ball near the edge of the box. Alonso and Lahm now took over from Coman and Martínez, who sustained a knock. Lahm missed another golden chance but fired just wide of the left post with five minutes to go. A Robben header hit the side-netting and Leno proved equal to Alonso's long-range effort before Siebert blew for full time.
The result means Bayern have 69 points from 29 matches, eight clear of RB Leipzig who won their home match against Freiburg. The Reds travel to face Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final return leg in just three days before entertaining FSV Mainz in the Bundesliga next Saturday.
Greg Salmen reporting from the BayArena for fcbayern.com
Bayer Leverkusen - FC Bayern 0-0 (H-T: 0-0)
Leno - Hilbert, Jedvaj, Toprak, Wendell - Baumgartlinger, Aranguiz (Dragovic 62) - Bailey, Havertz (Bailey 87), Kampl, Brandt (Bellarabi 66) - Volland
Özcan, Kießling, Mehmedi, Bellarabi, Henrichs
Neuer - Rafinha, Martínez (Lahm 72), Alaba, Bernat - Kimmich, Vidal - Coman (Alonso 69), Thiago, Costa (Robben 60) - Müller
Ulreich, Sanches, Feldhahn, Obermair
Daniel Siebert (Berlin)
Aranguiz / -
|Yellow-red card||Jedvaj (59)|