Bayern Munich: Tactical takeaways from 2-2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen

Bayern Munich players after 2-2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Friday. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Bayern Munich players after 2-2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on Friday. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) /

Bayern Munich would have liked to lay down a marker, in the top-of-the-table clash, when they welcomed Bayer Leverkusen to the Allianz Arena. That actually seemed the case when Leon Goretzka put Bayern up 2-1 in the 86th minute, only for the visitors to convert, after VAR intervention, a somewhat questionable penalty in stoppage time and grab a point.

The result, after four match days, left both teams level on 10 points at the top of the table with Leverkusen ahead merely on goal difference.

From a spectator’s point of view, the match lived up to its billing. It had a distinct ebb and flow to it that supports the rationale of a draw being a fair result, although Bayern had outshot Leverkusen both in terms of total shots (16-13) and shots on target (9-5) (stats via

Thomas Tuchel, unsurprisingly kept the 4-2-3-1 formation but made two changes from the 11 that started against Monchengladbach. Kingsley Coman was omitted from the match-day squad altogether because of a muscular injury. His place on the left wing was taken by Serge Gnabry. Konrad Laimer started at right back which meant Noussair Mazraoui had to settle for a place among the substitutes.

The opposition’s coach Xabi Alonso also remained consistent by sticking with the 3-4-2-1 formation that he has deployed so far this season.

Fast start but gaps develop in the midfield

The Bavarians imposed themselves early on and it took only seven minutes for Harry Kane to open the scoring with a header from a right-sided Leroy Sane corner. The Leverkusen defense inexplicably left the Englishman unmarked at the far post and he made them pay.

Credit has to be given to Leverkusen for making the comeback. By the middle of the first half, the men from the North-Rhine region improved their pressing game. The hard work soon paid off with Thomas Muller committing a seemingly unintentional foul a few metres outside the Bayern penalty area while helping out in defence. Alex Grimaldo dusted himself off to even the score directly from the free kick in the 24th minute.

Whether it was a case of the four Leverkusen midfielders imposing themselves on Kimmich and Goretzka or Kimmich playing with an injury, or a lack of defensive work from Gnabry and Sane, which saw Leverkusen take control of the midfield and score the equalizer is up for debate. Based on the way the gaps appeared in Bayern’s midfield from around the middle of the first half it may well have been a combination of all those factors and Xabi Alonso’s instructions.

Before the first half came to an end Bayern seized back control of the game and managed three clear attempts on goal, courtesy of Sane, Goretzka, and Gnabry respectively. However, Leverkusen’s custodian Lukas Hradecky thwarted each attempt to preserve the 1-1 scoreline at the break.

Open second half and the contribution of Mathys Tel

The open nature of the game continued in the second half with both teams being rather ineffective with the high press. Courtesy of the attacking approach from both teams, chances were being created at both ends of the pitch.

Tuchel used the allotted five substitutes during the second half. Of note, Kimmich was replaced by Mazraoui with the Moroccan international taking up duty in the right-back position, which allowed Laimer to slot in the midfield as the number six.

However, it wasn’t until Mathys Tel replaced Serge Gnabry that the crucial second goal arrived for Die Roten. In the 86th minute, the young attacker performed some dribbling wizardry on the left wing, inside the 18-yard box, and squared the ball perfectly for Goretzka to steer home from the center of the box, with his left foot, to give Bayern the lead.

For the second game in a row, following his game-winner against Gladbach, the young Frenchman has been an impact substitute for Die Roten. Moving forward, this strategy could very well develop into the norm, when needed.

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In the end, honours were shared as the two Bundesliga heavyweights took each other’s best punches with Bayern coming closest to scoring a knockout.

With Manchester United up next, on Wednesday, to start the quest for Champions League glory, Tel’s spark of the bench is a welcome development.