Harding’s Hark: The Inside Story - Lack of Composure Costs Bayern the Win
Three days after demolishing Manchester City in what many hailed as a “training game”, Bayern Munich drew 1-1 against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in a game full of chances for the visitors. Toni Kroos’s goal was cancelled out by Sidney Sam’s 60 seconds later. Jonathan Harding reviews.
Thomas Müller’s goalscoring form has returned and it has perhaps stemmed from playing him in attack as opposed to on the right wing. A start for Xherdan Shaqiri ahead of Arjen Robben was more surprising but midweek action meant the Dutchman’s fitness, as suggested at the start of the season, wasn’t going to be pushed.
Enough has been made of Philipp Lahm’s recent exploits in defensive midfield. In Leverkusen, Joachim Löw was watching but it would be a real surprise to see Germany’s captain occupy that position internationally, particularly ahead of others in the squad.
Early signs suggested Müller had misplaced his shooting boots though, firing wide when hitting the target seemed easier. Ten minutes before the break and the omission of Mario Mandžukić looked a mistake when Thomas Müller missed an open goal with close-range, unmarked header. The more the game went on, the more Müller looked out-of-sorts (again) and frustrated (understandably for the foul on him in the box that wasn’t given).
Shaqiri’s patience on the ball often appeared more like fits of indecision. In the second half, he played some excellent passes but spoiled it by spurning a glorious chance to put Bayern ahead after some impressive interplay.
Lahm keeps getting better, which sounds like an oxymoron considering his basis quality. He tackled and redistributed superbly in the first half. As the game went on, his role became more and more quarterback-like, starting a number of flowing moves.
Intensity but no composure
The pressure that Bayern put Leverkusen under – particularly in the opening 20 minutes – left them looking just as vulnerable as Manchester City midweek. Had it not been for some wayward finishing, that dominance would have been visible on the scoreline. Although Leverkusen were perhaps guilty of sitting too deep and panicking at times, Bayern were quick and relentless every time they went forward.
High pressure made the home side uncomfortable and demonstrated Bayern’s superior concentration and fitness. For all the concentration and patience that came in Bayern’s opening half an hour, it disappeared momentarily for the first minute afterwards and Leverkusen pounced. That pressure returned, unsurprisingly, for the rest of the game, but with it came the unwanted, poor composure in front of goal. Credit must go to Bernd Leno though, who continued his recent, fine form. Without Mandžukić, Bayern’s decision to cross more regularly in the latter stages was odd. When he did come on, it was if he never had.
Bayern’s inability to convert chances made them look more mortal and not for the first time, their failure to score a second goal cost them. This, and perhaps only this, is the only question mark about this otherwise special team.