There was a brief rekindling of a Bundesliga title race, although it lasted for all of 18 minutes, and now Bayern Munich can look forward to an eighth straight league triumph.
The opening 30 minutes of Bayern’s victory over Bayer Leverkusen were challenging for the league leaders, but as they’ve so often done throughout the season, they aced the test.
Luckily for Leverkusen, who is fighting to qualify for the Champions League, every other club around them dropped points this weekend, with very little separation between the teams.
Here are our musings from Matchday 30 of the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich overcomes adversity
After just nine minutes on Saturday, Bayern Munich had fallen behind against Bayer Leverkusen. That was the first time Bayern trailed in a Bundesliga game since Dec. 14 against Werder Bremen. The Bavarians went on to win 6-1 that day.
Just like mid-December, Leverkusen prodded the bear and it was ruthless when it woke up. Thomas Müller recorded his record-tying 20th assist of the season and Robert Lewandowski notched his 30th goal of the campaign.
However, both players are suspended for this Saturday versus Borussia Monchengladbach. That would’ve added some much-needed intrigue for that match, if Alassane Plea didn’t get himself sent off in ‘Gladbach’s game Friday.
While Bayern was magnificent after conceding the opener, Leverkusen was at a notable disadvantage before the match even kicked off. Kai Havertz missed out with a muscular injury, leading to coach Peter Bosz naming an ultra-attacking lineup.
Nadiem Amiri, normally a No. 10 or a central midfielder, started as a right wingback. Forward Leon Bailey was the left wingback, which was a huge risk against the Bayern juggernaut.
The decision was somewhat justified given how Leverkusen approached the match. The hosts relentlessly pressed Bayern and deployed a high defensive line in order to pin their opponents in their own defensive third.
That didn’t work because Bayern utilized the speed of Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry on the break. Both wingers drifted inside, executed runs off the last shoulder of the defence and latched onto through balls behind the defenders whenever Leverkusen coughed up possession.
The attacking phase was especially pitiful because Leverkusen had no fluidity in possession. Lucas Alario is a solid goal-scorer, but Havertz’s ability to roam from his position to play off his teammates opens up the pitch.
The consolation for Leverkusen was seeing 17-year-old sensation Florian Wirtz scoring late in the second half. That made Wirtz the Bundesliga’s youngest-ever scorer.
Who wants to qualify for the Champions League?
In a weekend where Bayer Leverkusen faced Bayern Munich, the other top-four challengers failed to capitalize.
Borussia Monchengladbach had an opportunity to lay down a marker on Friday. Despite dominating the first half, Gladbach lost 1-0 to Freiburg and Alassane Plea was sent off, meaning he’s suspended for the Bayern Munich game next weekend.
Gladbach was outshooting Freiburg 14-6 at halftime and based on the game’s expected goals (xG), the hosts should’ve finished the half with a lead.
The saving grace was Leverkusen losing to Bayern, which keeps both sides level on 56 points. Gladbach is still in fourth due to a superior goal differential.
Even RB Leipzig is within touching distance, standing just three points ahead of both sides after a shocking 1-1 draw against bottom-of-the-table Paderborn on Saturday. It’s Leipzig’s third consecutive tie at home since the restart.
It was Dayot Upamecano’s red card in the 43rd minute that allowed Paderborn to come storming back after Patrik Schick’s opener before the half-hour mark. Upamecano was already on a yellow card when he kicked the ball in frustration, leading to his second booking.
Thanks to those results, Borussia Dortmund separated itself from the pack after defeating Hertha Berlin 1-0. The scoreline suggests it was a grind, but BVB was in complete control.
Hertha centre-backs Dedryck Boyata and Jordan Torunarigha were immense, although the attack only mustered six shots. Matheus Cunha had a concussion and that hurt the Berliners, who missed his improvisation on the dribble and willingness to shoot.
Werder Bremen creeping closer to relegation
It was a terrible week for Werder Bremen. A 3-0 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in midweek was followed by a devastating 1-0 defeat to Wolfsburg on Sunday. The only positive was Fortuna Düsseldorf shared the points with Hoffenheim.
There’s one last hope for Bremen, and that’s beating bottom club Paderborn with Düsseldorf facing Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. If results favour Werder, it would be level with Fortuna for that relegation playoff place.
Mainz pulled out a humungous 2-0 victory against Eintracht to create some separation with Düsseldorf, while Union Berlin and Augsburg – four points ahead of Fortuna – drew their respective matches. It’s not clear, but those results certainly help.
Player of the Week
Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich): Müller was constantly attempting to pick out that killer pass through Bayer Leverkusen’s defence and ended up with two assists. But most importantly, he was constantly recovering possession and easing the burden on Bayern’s defence with his defensive efforts.
Goal of the Week
Jonjoe Kenny vs. Union Berlin: This bullet from Kenney secured Schalke’s first point since the restart.