“Winning ugly” is universally agreed to be one of the hallmarks of great champions, and Bayern Munich have certainly shown the ability to grind out results in recent weeks, with Robert Lewandowski’s latest brace taking them top of the Bundesliga standings over the Christmas break.
Hansi Flick’s side conceded the first goal of the game for a seventh successive league outing on Saturday, Patrik Schick’s thunderous volley giving Bayer Leverkusen an early advantage in the top-of-the-table Matchday 13 encounter.
Yet Bayern refused to give in, and after equalising through Lewandowski just before half-time, the recently crowned Best FIFA Men's Player hit a last-minute winner to secure a 2-1 victory that lifts the reigning champions two points clear at the summit.
Watch: Highlights of Bayern's win in Leverkusen
“They were pressing us high but we knew we had to stay patient during the first half,” Alphonso Davies told bundesliga.com after the final whistle. “The second half we started attacking more and more and I’m happy that ‘Lewangoalski’ could put one in again.”
Bayern had also conceded first in their preceding games against Borussia Dortmund, Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart, RB Leipzig, Union Berlin and Wolfsburg, but fought their way back to win three and draw three.
Not only that, but in the case of Wolfsburg and Leverkusen, Flick’s charges inflicted first defeats of the season on teams that had otherwise been enjoying impressive campaigns up to that point.
Watch: Alphonso Davies on Robert Lewandowski
It is eerily reminiscent of a similar phase almost exactly a year ago, when Bayern were on the verge of dropping points against both Freiburg and Wolfsburg (on Matchdays 16 and 17 in December 2019), only to score late goals that earned wins that ultimately swung momentum their way in the title race.
“We always want more, and we’ll go again in the new year,” said Lewandowski after registering his 16th and 17th Bundesliga goals of the season, at a clip of one every 59 minutes.
“And obviously I want to keep scoring goals. You can feel a bit of fatigue out on the pitch, we’re lacking that bit of freshness. But when you’re tired, that’s when you need to show your quality. Maybe that’s why Leverkusen controlled the game a bit more at the start. But we’re well prepared to cope with playing lots of games. We're always able to come back.”
Their ability to do so was given an additional boost on Saturday when Joshua Kimmich made his return from injury, playing for the first time since hurting his knee against Dortmund on 7 November.
The Germany international was as influential as ever in his 22-minute outing, which included him winning the ball from Jonathan Tah with the tackle that paved the way for Lewandowski to score the all-important winner.
With a two-week break now to further rest and recover, Kimmich, Lewandowski and Co. can look forward to going on the front foot again when they face Mainz on 3 January in their first game of 2021.