After ninety and an additional four tough minutes at the Allianz Arena, Niko Kovač’s men got the job done. But it was tough. Very tough.
1. Three points, well earned
At various points this season, FC Bayern have buckled. The team’s weak points have been badly exposed, and they have been made to pay for it. Against Borussia Mönchengladbach, the Bavarians were hammered to the canvas. Against lesser opposition, they have melted under pressure.
When Franck Ribéry scored late on against a well-drilled Leipzig unit, there was plenty of elation among Bayern fans. Adrenaline-fuelled elation. But I am sure that I am not just speaking for myself when I say that I was a complete bag of nerves until I heard the welcome peeps of the final whistle.
Leipzig offered little up front, but a lot of this was down to the Bayern defence. The dangerous Timo Werner was nullified, and their attack was as flat as a two-day old opened can of their owner’s product. On the other hand, Ralf Rangnick’s men closed down every attacking avenue. Then there were a couple of excellent saves from keeper Péter Gulácsi.
When the breakthrough finally came, the sense of relief was overwhelming. It was a deserved result.
Dortmund’s lead at the top has now been cut back to six points, and with the top two facing off against each other on Saturday, another three points will ensure that the Bavarians are right back in the chase as the Hinrunde comes to an end.
2. Ribéry the legend
When Serge Gnabry pulled up after yet another darting run into the opposition box, there was a sharp intake of breath among those in red. The winger has been Bayern’s man in form at the moment, and to see him make his way off the pitch after just 28 minutes was like a sharp punch in the gut.
Gnabry made way for Franck Ribéry. The 35-year-old Frenchman has provided Bayern fans with so many great moments, and added himself to the list of club legends a long time ago. With seven minutes of the regulation ninety remaining, he showed just why he is adored by the Munich faithful.
When others might have panicked or snatched at the opportunity, the wily veteran kept his head. Taking the ball after Dayot Upamecano’s poor clearance, Ribéry created the space, eyed the target, and coolly found his mark. The best moment was the smart sidestep, resulting in Ibrahima Konaté and Konrad Laimer both ending up flat on their backsides.
After seeing his right-footed shot hit the back of the net, Ribéry’s face was a picture. Contorted with relief and emotional Gallic fury. He wanted it. We wanted it. It showed just why he is a legend at the Allianz Arena. We all know that this season will be his last, but moments like this will last forever.
3. Sanches surprise
Kingsley Coman had not had the best of matches, and it was no surprise to see his number come up just after the hour mark. However, there were more than a few raised eyebrows when his replacement Renato Sanches stood ready at the touchline.
The Bayern coach has been accused of making some curious substitutions during his short time in charge, but this time he called it perfectly. The young Portuguese star still needs to keep his head when in front of goal, but he provided the energy needed to push the Bavarians over the line.
Sanches played a major part in the buildup to the winning goal, when his bustling run was followed by a shot that Gulácsi could only parry. Then came the poor clearance and Ribéry’s finish.
The big downside was that Sanches was unable to control his raw energy and passion. When Thiago was hacked down by Stefan Ilsanker in injury time, the youngster took it upon himself to mete out his own ham-fisted discipline rather than just leave it to the referee. The result was a silly second yellow card that will keep him out of the next match.