Football Features

“Unforgivably bad” – RB Leipzig spurn chance to make title statement at Bayern’s expense

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:22, 9 February 2020

In a bizarre evening of football, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig played out a fiery 0-0 draw.

The result leaves everything as it is at the top of the Bundesliga with Bayern holding a one-point lead over Leipzig. What did we learn?

1. Leipzig fluff their lines

So many big “title clashes” in the Bundesliga are brought to an abrupt halt by the challenger getting torn asunder at the Allianz Arena by Bayern Munich. Borussia Dortmund know this pain all too well, and so Leipzig would have approached this tie with trepidation as well as confidence.

That trepidation was not palpable in their performance, which was superb and saw them trade blows with their illustrious hosts all evening long. However, the nerves Leipzig must have been feeling manifested in their finishing, which was pretty poor.

And not just in the way that all finishing is kind of poor when an open game ends 0-0, but actually unforgivably bad. Leipzig conjured a trio of chances on the break that absolutely should have been buried. Marcel Sabitzer had the goal at his mercy about 15 yards from goal but blazed over, Timo Werner was unmarked even closer to goal yet wasted Christopher Nkunku’s great work and put it wide, and of course Werner even put it wide having run around Manuel Neuer (when passing would have surely led to a goal).

Hell, you’d think at least one of them would have gone in. How often do teams go to Bayern and actually conjure one chance that good, let alone three? Especially in games of this magnitude? Leipzig had the chance to deliver one of the biggest and boldest statements the Bundesliga had seen in half a decade, and even though they were the first Bundesliga or Champions League side to keep a clean sheet at the Allianz in 2019/20, they fluffed their lines to make history.

2. Bayern’s midfield mastery

The legacy of Pep Guardiola still looms large at Bayern Munich through the magnificence of their midfield. Today even though in the final third the game was even, in the middle only one side reigned and that was Bayern. With Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcantara negotiating the Leipzig press with almost insulting ease.

Kimmich (131) and Thiago (116) had more touches than anyone else on the pitch, Kimmich also completed more passes (91/104) than anyone else whilst Thiago was second on that list (85/98) and the former Barcelona-man had more passes in the opponent’s half than anyone else (59). They were the engine room, moving the ball forward to facilitate the creativity of the attacking players. If Bayern end up winning the Bundesliga (and perhaps the Champions League) it will be thanks to their magical midfielders.

3. Dayot Upamecano is the truth

Sometimes when you watch a young defender you just know they’re the real deal. Obviously lots of young centre-backs have shone throughout history because defending is easier than attacking, but even so you can still spot the special ones. And Dayot Upamecano feels like the latest in a long line of fabulous French centre-backs.

The 21-year-old was sensational against Bayern Munich, pocketing Robert Lewandowski for the vast majority of the match, including clearing one of the striker’s shots off the line. He made eight clearances (a game-high), four interceptions, two tackles and another game-high with thre blocks. And beyond the numbers, he very much passed the eye-test. Whenever Bayern looked like threatening, somehow he was there.

Upamecano even managed to make a classic mistake so many overworked defenders make when playing well, that one error that undoes all their excellence, but still got away with it. He fouled Lewandowski and conceded a penalty, but only after the Pole received the ball in an offside position, so VAR brought it back for a Leipzig free-kick.

Everyone has been making lots of noise about Werner being “due” a big move in the summer, but Upamecano is the truth as well. A supreme talent very much ready for the biggest of big times.

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4. Return of the young guns bodes well for Bayern

Bayern Munich are loaded up with young talent, but are often denied the use of it because of injury. Lucas Hernandez and Kingsley Coman (both just 23) are two sensational young French players who had only amassed a combined 1,368 minutes in the Bundesliga before Sunday’s clash.

Their restricted minutes has hurt Bayern a little, but with them back the chance for Bayern to put their foot down and burn away from everyone is very real. Hernandez will add genuinely elite ability at the heart of defence and Coman is a decisive playmaker in the final third and has the pace to change a game in a split-second.

With a Champions League tie against Chelsea looming, Bayern will need their young guns firing to get them into the quarter-finals.

5. Fatal fourway for the title

Before the top two faced-off at the Allianz, third-placed Borussia Dortmund lost to 4-3 to Bayer Leverkusen and fourth-placed Borussia Monchengladbach had their game postponed due to bad weather. After the draw between Leipzig and Bayern that means we are left with a fatal fourway for the Bundesliga title this season.

Bayern lead the way on 43 points, with Leipzig one point back on 42. In turn, they are three ahead of Dortmund and Gladbach, although Marco Rose’s men obviously have a game in-hand and should they win it, would go level with Leipzig right behind Bayern.

In contrast to England where the title has been settled for months, or Spain where it’s the big two going head-to-head yet again, or Italy where the winners of 13 out of the last 14 titles are contesting Serie A, Germany has got a genuine multi-team title race where each side has enough weaknesses that the trophy could genuinely be won by any of them.