However, Leverkusen can definitely live with the point. "We always stayed positive, even after going behind and wasting a few chances before half-time. We said before that we need to suffer today. That's what happened, but we dealt with it well," stressed Jonathan Tah. Kerem Demirbay said of the equaliser: "It definitely gave us a lot of energy and a push."
Head coach Gerardo Seoane made three changes to the starting XI from last week’s 3-0 win against Arminia Bielefeld. Lucas Alario, Exequiel Palacios and Paulinho all dropped to the bench, with Amine Adli, Demirbay and Piero Hincapie coming into the team. It therefore meant a change of formation to a 3-4-3 without an out-and-out striker. Iranian January signing Sardar Azmoun was in the matchday squad for the first time since joining, but Robert Andrich wasn’t involved because of a knee issue. Patrik Schick, Karim Bellarabi and Andrey Lunev also missed out through injury. But there was good news with Julian Baumgartlinger back with the team for the first time since Matchday 2 in August after his cruciate ligament injury.
“We need a top performance. Just a good one won’t be enough,” Seoane said ahead of the clash with the record champions. He’d also called for resolute defending and bravery in attack. Bayern took control of the play early on and tried to put the Werkself under immediate pressure. But Leverkusen were determined to get at the opposition early at the other end and cut through the Munich backline. And the first chance in fact fell to the visitors when Charles Aranguiz dispossessed Jamal Musiala and played in Adli, but the Frenchman’s left-footed effort flew just wide of the far post.
Bayern only started to pose a threat after a quarter of an hour. Robert Lewandowski’s shot on the turn after a training ground free-kick was deflected behind off Müller, whose later volley was no issue for Lukas Hradecky. But the hosts did take the lead not long after. Aranguiz headed a corner clear off the line but Hincapie and Tah got into a muddle trying to get rid of that ball in the six-yard box, allowing Süle a free hit and the opening goal. It appeared to spur on the champions, forcing Bayer 04 into repelling a string of ensuing Bayern attacks. Leverkusen struggled to find their footing in the game and were losing the ball too quickly. A quick counter from Bayern then saw Serge Gnabry fire across goal.
However, Bayer 04 soon showed how to do it. A good attack saw Jeremie Frimpong lay the ball to Florian Wirtz, but Benjamin Pavard just got a leg in the way of the shot, which nearly went into his own net. And it was a Bayern player who struck next only minutes later, but this time benefitting Leverkusen. Demirbay’s in-swinging free-kick from the right was diverted past goalkeeper Sven Ulreich by Müller to level proceedings at 1-1.
The Werkself now had control of the game and really should have taken a lead into half-time. Adli capitalised on a short pass from Dayot Upamecano and rounded Ulreich, but only struck the post from a tight angle. Just a minute later, Adli was again clear through against Ulreich but dragged wide. Again, less than a minute later, Frimpong was through down the right and cut back. Aranguiz was denied by Ulreich before Adli’s rebound was blocked. Bayern could count themselves lucky to not be behind after 45 minutes.
The second half started much like the first had ended. Another chance for Leverkusen as Wirtz played the ball onto Adli, but Pavard again got something in the way less than 60 seconds after the resumption. At the other end, Hradecky made himself big to parry a Musiala shot from range behind. He was again perfectly placed to thwart a Lewandowski volley. It was an intense encounter but with the better chances for the Werkself. Adli got the better of Süle in a race but Wirtz could only put the cross to the front post into the side netting. Leverkusen were certainly at least on a par with Bayern since the equaliser.
A header from Omar Richards went wide across goal before the hosts brought on Leroy Sane and Marcel Sabitzer, switching to a back three. The latter was played through – potentially offside – against Hradecky, but the Bayer 04 skipper made a strong stop with his foot. Seoane introduced Palacios for Adli, while Bayern brought on a second striker alongside Lewandowski in Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The home side increased the pressure again, forcing the Werkself back. Odilon Kossounou also came on for Mitchel Bakker, who was on a yellow card.
The Werkself found the energy again for a dangerous counter through Moussa Diaby, whose ball into the middle evaded Wirtz before Frimpong’s follow-up was blocked. Azmoun came on for Diaby to make his Bayer 04 debut at the same time as Alario replaced Wirtz. Three minutes of added time produced no further chances and meant a thoroughly deserved point for Leverkusen.
Bayer 04 are next in action on Thursday, 10 March with the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 away at Atalanta (kick-off: 21:00 CET). That’s followed on Sunday, 13 March with the derby at home to 1. FC Köln in the Bundesliga (15:30).
Bayern: Ulreich – Pavard, Süle, Upamecano, Richards (Sabitzer 61') – Kimmich, Musiala – Gnabry (Choupo-Moting 74'), Müller (Sane 61'), Coman (Sarr 86') – Lewandowski
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Tah, Tapsoba, Hincapie – Frimpong, Aranguiz, Demirbay, Bakker (Kossounou 82') – Diaby (Azmoun 89'), Wirtz (Alario 89'), Adli (Palacios 70')
Goals: 1-0 Süle (18'), 1-1 Müller (own goal, 36')
Referee: Daniel Siebert (Berlin)
Yellow cards: Coman – Bakker, Demirbay
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