Bayern and Leipzig share the points in matchday four’s top fixture
The international break is over and matchday four had a real thriller in store for the Bundesliga to resume business.
Niko Kovač changed his starting eleven on three positions over the 6-1 victory against Mainz. Müller started as the central playmaker instead of Coutinho, who had just come back from two games with his national team in America. The second change was Gnabry starting as the left winger instead of Perišić. David Alaba was ruled out shortly before the match due to a muscular problem he suffered in warm up. In his place, Jerome Boateng made his first Bundesliga start of the season. Hernández moved to the left full-back position.
Kovač had his team run out in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Kimmich and Thiago as the two holding midfielders. Pavard started as right full-back. Niko Kovač said before the match that he wanted to take on the positive momentum these three players had built on these positions during the international break.
Julian Nagelsmann, his Leipzig counterpart, elected for his team to start in a 3-5-2 formation. His only personell change for the starting eleven was Mukielé making the team for the injured Kampl. Mukielé, Orban and Konaté formed the back three.
Bayern joined the game wide awake right out of the gate. Leipzig positioned themselves high up the pitch and pressed early. In the 3rd minute, Müller won a defensive duel against Klostermann deep in his own half and played a well timed long ball in the path of Lewandowski, who was charging down on Leipzig’s goal. Leipzig’s defenders stood too high and could not intervene in time. Lewandowski kept his cool and slotted the ball past Gulacsi into the right-hand corner.
The early goal gave Bayern confidence and before long they took complete control of the game. The two wingers Gnabry and Coman frequently moved inside to present additional passing options in zone 14. This made Bayern’s build-up play more variable and was an effective antidote to Leipzig’s high press.
Bayern was always dangerous when they could avail themselves of their pace on the wings. Gnabry and Lewandowski had a few good goal scoring opportunities resulting from this which they failed to convert.
In first half stoppage time, Bayern squandered all the fruits of their efforts. Thiago loses a simple ball in midfield, Werner wins the ball and plays a deep, vertical pass in the direction of Poulsen who gets to it fractions of a second ahead of Hernández. Hernández tries to stop him, commits a foul and concedes a penalty, which Forsberg converts for 1-1 (45+2nd minute). Neuer dived into the correct corner but had no chance.
Julian Nagelsmann made a tactical change during the break. He switched his formation from a 3-5-2 to a straight 4-2-2-2 to add additional bodies to midfield in order to gain more control in the centre. Instantly, his move paid off. Right from the start of the second half, Leipzig took control of the game and started to accumulate chances. Bayern was firmly pushed back into their own half for long periods and could only occasionally free themselves on the counter. Nevertheless, they had a few good chances of their own. All chances on both sides, however, including the two biggest ones on either side by Werner and Coman, went begging.
Niko Kovač reacted to the now completely different complexion of the match by bringing on Davies and Tolisso for Müller and Gnabry. This allowed Bayern to regain a degree of control in the centre because the two substitutes took a more central position than Müller and Gnabry and allowed Kimmich to drop off markedly and shore up defence and initiate Bayern’s build-up from a deeper position. Nevertheless, Bayern’s only real chances resulted from high crosses, mostly driven by Coman.
In the dying minutes of the game, Coutinho replaced Thiago (88th minute). Shortly thereafter, Werner had another great opportunity from a one-on-one duel with Neuer, but Bayern’s goalkeeper came out victorious.
In second half stoppage time, Bayern almost managed to clinch the victory yet, but a well-placed header by Süle after a free kick from Kimmich was saved by Gulacsi with aplomb.
The final 1-1 result seems a fair outcome for both sides. Bayern failed to capitalise on their immense superiority in the first half, but cannot really complain because Leipzig missed out on plenty of good chances in the second half.
Kovač stuck to one of Bayern’s usual formations in the 4-2-3-1 but their game had an unusual degree of variety to it. Gnabry and Coman inverted their positions and Kovač had obviously instructed them to frequently move inside to create a numerical advantage for his team in midfield. This effectively cancelled out Leipzig’s attempt to press early from a high position on the pitch. Kimmich’s and Thiago’s passing game benefited greatly from this. 76% possession and 91% successful passes is testament to Bayern’s dominance in the first half. Only the half time result did not reflect the overall character of the game.
Nagelsmann changed his team’s formation at half time. Whereas the previous 3-5-2 produced too many gaps in midfield for Bayern to exploit, the new 4-2-2-2 enabled his team to assume control in the central area of the pitch. Bayern were pushed out to the wings early in their build-up play, which completely altered the complexion of the game. Leipzig now regularly managed to isolate Bayern’s full-backs Hernández and Pavard in build-up and induce them to make mistakes. This allowed Leipzig to frequently win the ball back quickly and awarded them five good opportunities in the first 15 minutes of the second half alone.
Only after Kovač’s substitutions in the 66th minute, Bayern recovered some of their first half control, but never fully regained their first half supremacy.