The match might have ended differently if the guests had made the most of their chances, but ultimately Franck Ribery’s second-half strike proved to be the difference between the sides.
Leverkusen start strongly
The match started at a furious tempo, almost as if the players were determined to stave off the bitterly cold Munich air by running as much as possible. Bayern immediately sought to keep hold of the ball, but with the visitors defending with an extremely high back line, they forced Bayern back into their own half.
Leverkusen’s early pressure very nearly paid off in the third minute when Jerome Boateng’s attempted clearance ricocheted off Xabi Alonso and rebounded towards Manuel Neuer’s goal. Karim Bellarabi was first to latch on to it and his delicate effort had the FIFA Ballon d’Or finalist beaten, only for Juan Bernat to clear off the line. The next chance also went Leverkusen’s way following neat interplay between Bellarabi and Hakan Calhanoglu, who fed Heung-Min Son with a clever through-ball. However, the South Korean attacker’s drilled cross from the right flew across the face of goal, with Stefan Kießling unable to connect.
Indeed, the away side were brave throughout the first half and continued to cause problems going forward, with Bellarabi and Son the chief trouble-makers. The hosts struggled to create any chances against an extremely well-organised defence and their only real opportunity of note came from Bernat’s left-wing cross which Lewandowski was just unable to make contact with. Kießling wasted another decent half-chance shortly before the break, meaning the teams went in level at half-time.
That soon changed after the interval as Bayern scored from their first real chance of the game. Substitute Sebastian Rode, who had replaced Mario Götze, earned a corner on the right, from which Ribery hammered in his 100th competitive goal for Bayern from Alonso’s knock-down.
Leverkusen run out of steam
The guests were visibly stunned at going behind, and, sensing blood, Bayern sought to press home their advantage. Müller’s shot from an acute angle was turned on to the post by Leno, before Lewandowski somehow hit the side netting with the goal at his mercy following a swift break. However, the visitors gradually recovered their composure, although they were no longer as menacing up front as fatigue started to kick in.
Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt tried to counter that by bringing on a second striker in Josip Drmic, and later on Robbie Kruse, but the side lacked the same belief they had had in the first half and never looked like troubling Neuer again. Bayern could perhaps have added to the scoreline from one of several promising breaks, but the final pass let them down. Pep Guardiola appeared less than satisfied with such profligacy but it mattered little as the reigning Bundesliga champions chalked up another three points.
Line-ups and statistics
Jonathan Stockitt reporting from the Allianz Arena