Even by Bayern Munich’s standards, leading 3-0 away from home after just 12 minutes counts as an extraordinary achievement, and two-goal hero Serge Gnabry more than played his part as Hansi Flick’s men nudged RB Leipzig off top spot once again on Matchday 22.
The eventual 4-1 triumph came as the perfect response to Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann, who had said on Saturday that his side’s victory over Werder Bremen had put the defending champions “under pressure” to follow suit.
And boy did they ever. Robert Lewandowski and Kingsley Coman had Bayern 2-0 up with just five minutes on the clock, with Gnabry getting in on the act moments later as the visitors steamrollered their hosts in a one-sided first half.
“We couldn’t get a grip on Bayern in midfield,” rued Cologne striker Mark Uth – scorer of his side’s consolation goal – at the final whistle. “It felt like they had two extra players, which means you’re always chasing the game.
“Our problem was that Gnabry and [Thomas] Müller kept dropping back. That meant they could turn around and dribble at our defence.”
Both of Gnabry’s goals were a perfect example of that. For his first, he was unmarked at the back post following a corner, before dribbling past two defenders to rifle a low shot into the net.
His second, which arrived midway through the second half, was even better. He was a good 40 yards from goal when he received the ball wide on the left, before jinking inside, skipping past three Cologne players and curling a delicious shot around a fourth from the edge of the area and just inside the post.
Watch: Gnabry: "Cologne didn’t have a chance"
“We’re happy to have the three points, I think we came out very strong in the first half,” Gnabry told bundesliga.com afterwards. “Cologne didn’t have a chance. I think in the second half we should’ve scored our fourth goal earlier, not to let them come back, but in the end we’re happy about the three points and I think we showed a strong performance.”
It was the 24-year-old’s first double of the season, continuing his fine record against the Billy Goats: the Germany international has now hit two braces against Cologne, en route to scoring six times in five games against them.
Gnabry’s contribution was about more than just goals, however. As Uth alluded to, he made more runs (104) and had more efforts on goal (eight) than anyone else on the pitch, entirely justifying his first Bundesliga start of 2020 after three consecutive substitute outings.
And with Bayern extending their unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions for the first time in 2019/20, it appears that both Gnabry and the defending champions are hitting their stride at the perfect time as the decisive weeks of the season approach.