Right at that time of year when those watching the Bundesliga ask themselves whether anyone can challenge Bayern, RB Leipzig answered with a resounding yes.
Julian Nagelsmann’s side dominated early proceedings, recovered from a quick fire Bayern double and kept the world’s most in-form striker, Robert Lewandowski, out of the game. They might not have won, but it has been a long time since a team displayed as much quality and confidence throughout a game in Munich.
Bayern, on the other hand, might feel more like this was two points dropped than one gained. Hansi Flick’s side had their moments, Kinsgley Coman bagged a hat trick of assists that left Leroy Sané in the wind, but not even the inevitable nature of their equalizer could hide just how a tough a test this was.
A game worthy of the hype
Despite excessive schedules only exacerbated by having a host of players away on international duties, this was a contender for game of the season. Not just for the dramatic back-and-forth and exciting football on display but because a game between the top two teams in the league, the best attack (Bayern had scored 31 goals beforehand) against the best defense (RB Leipzig had only conceded six beforehand), and the country’s top two coaches truly lived up to the hype.
Much of that is down to Julian Nagelsmann and his side. Indeed, the only thing better than Nagelsmann’s plan was his side’s execution of it. Given he was unable to rest too many big names in Leipzig’s midweek thriller in Turkey – unlike Hansi Flick in Madrid – and with more than half an eye on the showdown with Manchester United next week, assessment of the young German coach in this game might have been tied to RB Leipzig’s European hopes. Instead, it should be about how he delivered a blueprint as to how to push the defending champions.
“We had Tuesday in the back of the minds so I’m happy with the way the lads went to their limit,” Nagelsmann said afterwards.
RB Leipzig’s opener, one that fittingly came from a Bayern attack, was less of a surprise and more a reward for a game plan that hurried their hosts and made them look ordinary. Having won the ball back following Thomas Müller’s misplaced pass, Emil Forsberg sprang the pass for Christopher Nkunku. The Frenchman did what few have ever done and found a way around the out-rushing Manuel Neuer before rolling into the empty net.
Musiala and Müller magic
Perhaps Hansi Flick might have made the change anyway, but when the weakest element of this Bayern side (Javi Martinez) was forced off with injury, his replacement breathed new life into the hosts.
Seventeen-year-old Jamal Musiala’s agility and speed on the ball made a difference in midfield. Five minutes after he came on, he sent a rasping low drive into the bottom corner from outside the box. “He was in a position where we had trouble at the start, but he demanded the ball and even though he is 17, he is really mature,” Flick said afterwards.
Five minutes after that, Thomas Müller had Bayern in front as the contest went up a gear. “You live for games like these,” Emil Forsberg said afterwards.
Indeed, games that players long to play in also afford many the opportunity to make their name, and loanee Justin Kluivert did just that with a neatly taken finish to make it 2-2. Three minutes after the restart, Angelino put the third on Forsberg’s head, as the Swede capped a great night. “I was surprised at how open I was,” Forsberg admitted afterwards, a damning indictment of Bayern’s marking.
First Munich, then Manchester
Bayern had gone from looking like Bayern to looking like Germany, namely capable of scoring goals but incapable of defending. Flick called it a wild game, lamenting relatively easy goals conceded and that too often his side played the ball long when a pass along the ground was necessary.
Naturally, Müller was on hand to head home a perfect Coman cross at the peak of Bayern’s pressure.
“It was a thrilling game. You could see we had a day less to recover and had to take off key players after the hour mark to rest them for next week and that made life harder for us,” Nagelsmann said afterwards.
In the context of the Bundesliga, such games are not unprecedented. In recent years, Bayern and Dortmund have delivered truly exciting games, as have Bayern and RB Leipzig. In the context of the current season though, that these two teams – admittedly aided by enormous financial means – were able to deliver such a contest was impressive.
Julian Nagelsmann proved against Bayern Munich that with great risk can come great reward. Now the unrelenting nature of football’s schedule will ask him and his side to do it all in again in three days time. For now though, it is clear who Bayern’s challengers this season are.
As it happened:
— Müller in critical mood
He may have notched a brace but Thomas Müller is not entirely satisfied with his evening’s work.
“For me there were too many times that we lost the ball,” Müller told Sky. “Not everything was perfect. Of course you don’t score twice in every game, I’m happy about that but for me personally, it could have been more today.”
— No winners or all winners?
Who is happier with that result? Instinct would probably say Leipzig, but Julian Nagelsmann’s substitutions suggested he thought his side could win it. Bayern are certainly looking more vulnerable than they have since Hansi Flick took over but they still get the job done. And, despite their shortcomings, which were evident in today’s draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, this result keeps Borussia Dortmund in touch.
FULL TIME: It petered out a little at the end but this was a sensational game.FromNkunku’s early breakaway goal, through a goal from the bench from 17-year-old Musiala and a brace from Müller that put Bayern in front and then saved them, it had it all. In the end, a draw was a fair reflection of a high caliber game and Bayern remain two points clear of RB Leipzig at the summit of the Bundesliga. Stay here for post-match reaction and report.
90+1 – Neuer flies out of his goal again, as he did for Leipzig’s first. But this time he gets it right and whacks it clear.
90′ – Neuer gets away with another nervy moment as he controls a ball outside the box on his chest but Bayern on the front foot as we move in to two minutes of added time.
87′ – Gnabry has grass in front of him and drives in from the left flank. But Nkunku blocks his shot from the edge of the box. Leipzig have lost a bit of control here, they can’t keep the ball.
85′ – Two subs combine as Costa floats a ball from the left towards Musiala on the opposite flank. But the teenager can’t do anything with the header.
83′ – The tempo has slowed a touch, unsurprisingly. But Flick won’t have that, he introduces Costa in place of Coman and Richards for Boateng, who has had a touch evening.
80′ – In to the last ten and neither side look keen to settle for a point, feels like there’s a winner here.
77′ – Gnabry wriggles free down the right and hammers in a low cross, Konate just about hacks it clear. And Nagelsman moves for a change before the corner, bringing on Orban and Sörloth for Haidara and Kluivert.
75′ – Bayern Munich 3 (Müller) – 3 RB Leipzig
It had been coming, and it’s that man Müller. Musiala started things, pushing the ball out to Coman on the right. The winger whipped in a wicked cross and two Leipzig defenders got drawn to Lewandowski, leaving Müller free to nod home from close range. What’s next?
72′ – Sabitzer, who has had a few injury problems of late, is replaced by Kampl, who should bring some energy to the visitors. Dani Olmo is also on, with Mukiele the man replaced.
70′ – The visitors are starting to sit deep here. It’s a long time to hold on against this Bayern team.
67′ – Bayern have seen a lot of the ball lately but they’re struggling to turn their opponents around. Lewandowki and Müller both being kept quiet. For now.
64′ – Flick responds. Gnabry on for Sane, who had a quiet game.
62′ – Nagelsmann makes the first change, Poulsen replacing Forsberg who, as it stands, has scored the winner. Fair way to go yet though.
60′ – Musiala drifts left and spots the run of Sane from the opposite flank, but his cross is slightly overhit.
59′ – Little bit of a scrappy spell now, for maybe the first time in the match before Neuer almost makes another blunder, slipping during a routine backpass. Gets away with it.
55′ – Musiala dances his way in to the box after a short corner on the left but he holds on a bit too long as is crowded out.
54′ – Neuer just about gets away with another mistake as he looks to play a one-two with Süle in his own box. Adams reads it but he’s too close to the byline and can’t get it under control.
51′ – Mukiele is the first name in the book for a fairly innocuous looking challenge.
48′ GOAL! Bayern Munich 2 – 3 RB Leipzig (Forsberg 48′)
A well-worked move from Leipzig but more catastrophic defending form Bayern. The Swedish midfielder finds yards of space between Süle and Boateng and nods in Angelino’s inch-perfect cross from the left.
47′ – Upamecano plays a loose pass at the back which almost gets his side in trouble. But Coman is a touch slow in reading it and gives away a foul.
46′ – We’re back underway in this fascinating contest. A massive 45 minutes coming up.
HALF TIME: Well, I think we all need a breather after that. RB Leipzig started the scoring, with Nkunku breaking Bayern’s offside trap and beating Neuer, who come way off his line. Bayern then turned it round with two excellent goals from substitute Musiala and then Müller. It’s been frantic, fun and high quality. Here’s to more in 15 minutes.
45+2 – Lewandowski, who has been ususually quiet, tries to flick Sane in but the keeper gets there first.
45′ – Now Nkunku is down, a disjointed end to a brilliant half.
44′ – Haidara is up and hobbling and we go again.
42′ – Haidara down on the turf holding his head and played is stopped for a moment. Time for a breath.
40′ – Forsberg thinks he’s got Nkunku through again but he’s just offside. Bayern’s defensive line almost on the halfway line there, a dangerous game against this team.
39′ – This has been played at a frantic pace but there’s still a decent level of control, the sign of a high class contest.
36′ – GOAL! Bayern Munich 2 – 2 RB Leipzig (Kluivert)
What is going on?! Julian Nagelsmann’s selection call now vindicated. This one came from nowhere, with Haidara turning a cute, cushioned little ball around the corner on the edge of the box and the Dutchman setting himself before hammering a low drive from right to left across Neuer. What a game.
34′ – GOAL! Bayern Munich (Müller) 2 – 2 RB Leipzig
Another sensational goal, this time a real team effort. Musiala and Lewandowski do brilliantly to work the ball to Coman, who spots a cheeky little reverse pass and Müller does the rest from 10 yards.
33′ – On a knife edge this one, a really absorbing game.
30′ – GOAL! Bayern Munich (Musiala) 1 – 1 RB Leipzig
Wow, what a strike and what an introduction. Coman pops a ball in to Musiala on the edge of the box and the teenager takes a touch, finds half a yard and steers it low to Gulacsi’s left. Flick’s bold call vindicated by the English youth international, born in Germany.
28′ – What a save!
Remember Pavard’s incredible strike for France against Argentina at the World Cup? Well, he almost repeats it, cutting across a bouncing ball from the right edge of the box and sending it arcing for the top corner. But Gulacsi makes a stunning fingertip save to retain his side’s lead.
26′ – The new man and Alaba test Gulacsi with crosses from the left, but the Hungarian keeper is up to the challenge.
25′ – Yep, Martinez is off, replaced by 17-year-old Jamal Musiala. Bold call there from Hansi Flick.
24′ – Martinez looks to be struggling a little here, it seems to be his groin that’s causing him bother.
23′ – Kluivert gets in behind now, out wide on the left. But he dithers a little and the opportunity is lost. Leipzig sense blood here.
19′ – GOAL! Bayern Munich 0 – 1 RB Leipzig (Nkunku)
No surprise that it’s a devastating counterattack that gives Leipzig the lead. Forsberg picks it up deep and Nkunku sees a space vacated by Boateng stepping out. The Swedish midfielder picks out the Frenchman in that space and Neuer comes flying out to sweep up but gets it all wrong allowing Nkunku to beat him to the ball and roll in to an empty net from outside the box. Errors from a couple of Bayern veterans there. Game on.
19′ – Coman races on to a lovely ball down the left from Alaba. The French flyer just reaches it before the byline and drives across goal. Gulacsi makes a bit of a meal of it but Leipzig survive.
17′ – Nkunku again involved out on the left. He stands up Pavard and tries to curl on in to the opposite corner with his right foot, but it’s a little high. Danger signs for the champions right now.
15′ – Sabitzer swings a lovely ball out to Nkunku on the left but his cross is hacked clear. The visitors are clearly looking to break at speed here and exlpoit Bayern’s high line, and perhaps Boateng’s decreasing mobility on the turn.
13′ – Then Leipzig break. Forsberg finds Nkunku, whose effort is diverted over the bar for a corner. Angelino’s set piece is easily cleared. A pattern is starting to emerge here.
12′ – Coman twists and turns in the area but his shot from a tight angle flies in to the side netting.
10′ – Lewandowski hits the deck after tangling with Upamecano but it looks like he’ll be alright.
8′ – The home side starting to dominate the ball, but mainly in areas that won’t worry their opponents. Leipzig then look to break through Kluivert but his cross floats in to Neuer’s arms.
5′ – The ball breaks to Sane in midfield and he drives forward, before pushing it out to Müller on the right. His cross is cleared behind by Upamecano but Gulacsi punches the corner firmly clear.
2 ‘ – Woodwork!
Great start from the visitors. Kluivert forces a corner, which eventually finds its way to Sabitzer on the edge of the box. He cuts across the ball and the swerving drive rattled Neuer’s bar. The Bayern keeper looked unsure there.
1′ – And we’re off! Forsberg gets this critical clash going.
— Nagelsmann looking to Champions League
As my colleague Matt Ford points out, Julian Nagelsmann has just told Sky that his team selection was influenced by the big Champions League game against Manchester United on the horizon. Big gamble, that.
— Sane starts
A host of big names return for Bayern after a weakened XI won a point against Atletico Madrid in the week. Manuel Neuer, Robert Lewandowski and Leon Goretzka are back, while Leroy Sane starts ahead of Serge Gnabry. Sane hasn’t begun a match in the Bundesliga since late October.
There’s a bit of a surprise in the visitors line up too, with neither Alexander Sorloth or Yussuf Poulsen starting. Justin Kluivert is given the nod, with Nagelsmann perhaps thinking his pace will trouble Bayern’s high defensive line.
— Boost for both sides
After a loss to Cologne last time out, Borussia Dortmund have spurned the chance to put the pressure on Bayern and Leipzig. Lucien Favre’s men could only manage a 1-1 draw away at Eintracht Frankfurt, with Gio Reyna’s sweet second half strike leveling it after Daichi Kamada had given the hosts an early lead. Elsewhere, Arminia Bielefeld picked up a huge 2-1 win over Mainz while the points were shared between Cologne and Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach and Freiburg. Both those finished 2-2.
— Battle of the bosses
Have Bayern dropped off a bit of late? Probably, but they’re still top of the table and cruised through their Champions League group. Julian Nagelsmann said the champions have the best squad in the league and have improved under Hansi Flick but believes there’s a chink in the armor.
“Sometimes it looks as though they lose a bit of focus in certain situations, and seem a bit less sharp,” he said ahead of the game. “That’s a natural consequence of a long preseason and the busy schedule. But they’ll want to win at home. We’re prepared for that.”
The treble-winning Bayern coach did admit there’s been something of a drop off but expects his team of winners to demonstrate their mettle when it counts.
“First vs. second is always a special game. Champions prove themselves in these big games, so I’m expecting my team to show that they can play better than they have been doing in recent weeks.”
— Head to Head
As they have with every side in the division, Bayern have a strong record against Saturday’s visitors. The first time the sides met was as recently as December 2016, when a 3-0 win at the Allianz Arena meant Bayern pipped the newly-promoted side to the top of the table ahead of the winter break. They’d go on to win the title and capture the double over RB with a memorable 5-4 win in Leipzig, capped off by this Arjen Robben special.
Since then, the games have tightened up with just three goals in their four meetings in the last two Bundesliga seasons. Leipzig’s only win remains a 2-1 victory in 2018, thanks to goals from Naby Keita and Timo Werner. Both of those are gone, but is Bayern’s hold over the Red Bulls?
— Team news
Hansi Flick had updates on some key figures for Bayern in his prematch press conference, not least Joshua Kimmich.
“If it were up to him, he’d be playing 60 minutes tomorrow,” Flick said. “We don’t want to rush things though. The way he is training, day to day, is just lovely to see.”
The Bayern boss went on to suggest the Leipzig game would come too soon for Kimmich and revealed that Alphonso Davies is back in training, though also not expected to feature on Saturday.
The visitors will also be without a number of key figures, including Konrad Laimer, and Lukas Klostermann but French creator Christopher Nkunku is back after missing Leipzig’s Champions League win in midweek.
— Match preview
If you can’t beat Bayern Munich, statistically you have next to no chance of winning the Bundesliga.
In the last 30 years, only one team has managed to claim the title without defeating the record champions – Borussia Dortmund in 2001.
So if relative newcomers RB Leipzig really have aspirations to reach the top, they’ll have to find a way of beating the Bavarians.
Since cementing themselves as title hopefuls two seasons ago, however, they’ve fallen flat with three draws and a loss. Close, but not good enough.
Just two points currently separate the Bundesliga’s top two teams but Nagelsmann realizes that victory is no easy task.
“Bayern have the best squad in the league and a strong team chemistry,” he said. “They’ve improved significantly under Hansi Flick, particularly in defense and working without the ball.”
“Ideally [we want] all three points, but you can never guarantee that against the record champions.”
Chinks in the armor
Behind the scenes, though, Nagelsmann’s competitiveness will ensure he’s drilling belief into his squad ahead of what could be a crucial result at the end of the season.
Bayern have endured a rough schedule during the corona pandemic – the consequence of an incredible treble run. After an almost non-existent off-season, they’ve started to look vulnerable.
“In some situations, Bayern haven’t looked as sharp and not quite as focused,” Nagelsmann admitted. “But they will want to live up to their top-dog status at home. We’re ready for that.”
No Timo, no problem?
Much has been made of Timo Werner’s departure and understandably so. Yet Leipzig certainly haven’t been less dangerous in front of goal.
Last season they netted 17 in the first 10 matchdays with Werner grabbing nine of them. After 10 matches this campaign, they’ve shared 18 goals around the squad, with left-back Angelino top scorer with four.
Nagelsmann has adapted his system, but to compete with the best he’ll need to find a new striker. It’s rare to find a world-class team that doesn’t rely heavily on one expert marksman.
Alexander Sorloth finally broke his duck against Bashakshehir on Wednesday and he cut a frustrated but relieved man during his celebration. He’d missed a penalty last weekend against Bielefeld and it’s been a tough start to his Leipzig career.
Nagelsmann was clearly delighted but also admitted Sorloth had had a “complicated” game. Nevertheless, if the 24-year-old Norwegian can start scoring regularly it would be a huge boost for the team’s title chances.
Bayern’s recent fragilities have largely gone unpunished. They haven’t looked at their best, particularly defensively, but have still found enough to grind out results. Their recent win over Dortmund was yet another sign of their pedigree.
It’s the type of mentality which has set them apart for the last two decades, but Flick wants to see more from his team against Leipzig.
“First versus second is always a special game,” Flick said. “Champions prove themselves in these big games, so I’m expecting my team to show that they can play better than they have been doing in recent weeks.”
If neither Leipzig nor Dortmund both can find a way to beat Bayern this season, history suggests Bayern will stroll to a ninth straight Bundesliga title.
This is Nagelsmann’s big chance to show that they won’t have it all so easy this season.