With some surprising tactics and bright performances, RB Leipzig were put to bed in the first half by Bayern Munich, leaving behind plenty of talking points.
4-3-3, or not 4-3-3?
Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-3-3 setup has been central to most of the footballing discussions that have taken place in the Bavarian capital this season. Whether it is a successful long-term plan in the making, or an obsession that is not going to take the team anywhere, we do not quite know. Yet.
Having seemingly shelved the system to facilitate a 5:0 drubbing of toothless Wolfsburg, it was back again in the scrappy, dreary and dull 1:0 win over Keller-dwellers SV Darmstadt 98. The sort of game that would make even the biggest Bayern fans want to switch to the World Paint Drying Championships on another channel.
Today’s starting lineup saw the return of skipper Philipp Lahm and flying Dutchman Arjen Robben, with Thomas Müller a surprise omission. With Tommy on the bench and Thiago Alcântara occupying a more offensive position, it sort of looked like a 4-2-3-1.
There was also a new face in the back four… Or not. Just Mats Hummels trying to look like Lionel Messi, sporting a new and slightly silly blond hairdo. Combined with the dark goatee, more Messy than Messi.
Early chance for Leipzig, Thiago on the scoreboard
With the youngest team in the league, Leipzig have belied their new boy status. They have played some bright and breezy football this season, and should have taken the lead with not even five minutes on the clock. Star man Timo Werner charged down the right and flashed the ball across the Bayern goal, but somehow young Danish striker Youssef Poulsen was unable to get on the end of it.
Bayern gained in strength after that however, and Thiago was in the right place at the right time to finish what was an incisive move involving Lahm and Robert Lewandowski. Even the off-form Müller would have put that away, but one can imagine Carletto smiling to himself in the dugout.
Not so Xabi Alonso, shabby Red Bull
Xabi Alonso has been another player who has come in for his fair share of criticism this season, and his making the starting lineup again might have raised a few eyebrows. Until he swept in a majestic second goal for Die Roten. An uncharacteristic mistake from the visitors at the back, red shirts seizing on the opportunity, a cool pass from Thiago, and, well, Xabi being Xabi. Smooth, and not at all shabby.
Meanwhile, the wheels were starting to come off for Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men. Two goals down and in danger of being run off the park, Emil Forsberg toughened their task with a shocking tackle on Lahm. Referee Felix Zwayer was all set to show the yellow card, but after some advice from the man on the touchline, he reached for his back pocket.
The penalty just before half-time for a nudge on Douglas Costa by Leipzig ‘keeper Péter Gulácsi was in fairness a little harsh. But nobody in a red shirt was going to care about that. There was no mercy from Lewandowski either. 3:0.
Winding things down
Three goals and a man up, Bayern could afford to rest Robben at half-time. Not that this would have comforted Leipzig when they saw Franck Ribéry run onto the pitch. The home fans must have thought that it was time to take the bulls to the slaughterhouse, but for their opponents it was a simple case of saving face as they piled every man behind the ball.
Bayern ‘keeper Manuel Neuer could have afforded to tie a hammock between the posts of his goal in the second half, but there was no way through at the other end either. There were opportunities to finish things off in style with a fourth goal in front of the bouncing Südkurve, but in the end it was gentle stroll to the finish for the dominant Bavarians.
Early in the season at Red Bull’s DFB-Pokal meeting with Dynamo Dresden, a severed bull’s head had made its way onto the pitch from the home stands. Tonight, the Allianz Arena in Munich was littered with the carcasses of ten beaten bulls (with an eleventh already sent on its way).
Much had been made of this top-of-the-table contest before a ball had been kicked, but in the end it was a simple case of men against boys. The plastic upstarts have been rightly put in their place. Carletto is smiling again. Bayern are Herbstmeister. All is well with the world.