Bayern, Leverkusen share the spoils

Posted by Susie Schaaf

The picture of Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola sitting alone, pensive, on the bench at the BayArena after the match says it all. Despite going top-of-the-table before the two week international break, neither the coach nor the players can be happy with the 1-1 result. A multitude of missed chances -- the visiting side out-shooting Leverkusen 27-5 -- sees Bayern just narrowly Spitzenreiter; failing to truly capitalize on Borussia Dortmund's loss to Borussia Moenchengladbach.

- Report: Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Bayern

One could condense 120 seconds of action into the narrative of the match in its entirety. Toni Kroos opened the scoring on a lovely, controlled pass from Franck Ribery; driving fiercely to the top of Bernd Leno's goal, only to see Sidney Sam equalize on a counter attack just one minute later after Manuel Neuer could only parry Sebastian Boenisch's angled drive. Bayern Munich played beautiful, impressive football until they shot at goal, while Bayer Leverkusen could do nothing but stay organized in defense; waiting for fast-break opportunities.

Guardiola stuck mostly with his 4-3-3 that gave Manchester City a footballing clinic mid-week, only resting Arjen Robben in favor of Xherdan Shaqiri. But, what worked to devastating effect against the English club would not work again in Leverkusen: Die Werkself gave Bayern no space to play.

However Munich -- in massive, controlling form -- had the far better run of play over 90 minutes with Kroos and Thomas Mueller both shooting wide early. Leno collected at Shaqiri's feet a minute later before Ribery would also shoot wide.

Leno -- Leverkusen's hero -- could only parry Bastian Schweinsteiger volley after Ribery and Dante were magnificently turning defenders inside-out, before Kroos shot his first rocket of the day directly at the 'Kusen keeper. Then, the goals happened in quick succession: Kroos going top shelf on Leno, and Sam slotting in an open goal after Neuer was forced out.

Mueller fluffed one of Bayern's many chances to go back in front; heading David Alaba's cross agonizingly just wide, and Shaqiri did the same with a drive directly at Leno. The half would close out with 78% possession for the visiting side, and only one goal to show for it.

A clear penalty on Mueller went wanting when Omer Toprak dragged him down in the box as Shaqiri fired a free kick that Leno tipped out for a corner. The ensuing play saw Dante head at the 'keeper before Giulio Donate cleared of the line from Ribery.

Leno would again save Ribery twice, while Shaqiri would miss an absolute sitter, prompting Guardiola to bring Robben in the Swiss internationals' stead. And to effect, Robben dragged wide of the post just a minute in to his inclusion but saw his effort saved by Leno at the post on a free kick.

Mario Mandzukic finally came on for Mueller, Kroos off for Mario Goetze, Sam off for Robbie Kruse and an injured Stefan Kiessling for Jens Hegeler -- the latter solving Germany coach Jogi Loew's striker selection problem -- as Bayern threw everything forward to take all three points, while Leverkusen, warrior-like, were trying to survive the battle.

Survive they did as both sides took a point from this clash. Bayern Munich finally goes first in the Bundesliga as they've managed to sell out their 227th consecutive league match at home and away. And a respectable Leverkusen is now level on points with Dortmund.

It's a tight race going in to the international break, and the pensive, thoughtful Guardiola will have plenty of time to rue missed chances, wondering where it didn't really go wrong.

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