Bayern Munich dismantled Bayer Leverkusen with a 6-2 victory at the BayArena to cruise into the DFB-Pokal Final. The Bavarians showed no mercy with Thomas Müller bagging a hat-trick as they inched a little closer to another treble.
The gulf in class between Jupp Heynckes’ side and the rest of the Bundesliga was on display once again. Here are three things to take away from the encounter:
Müller in top form
Thomas Müller scored a hat-trick to continue his resurgence since Heynckes returned to Munich. After a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, Müller was unhappy under Carlo Ancelotti which culminated in the attacker telling ARD in August: “I don’t know exactly which qualities the coach wants to see, but mine seem not to be 100 percent in demand.”
Ancelotti was soon sacked, Heynckes returned to Munich and the rest is history. Müller is back to his best which is great news for the treble chasers and Germany’s hopes in Russia. Müller ghosted past the defence in the opening minutes, his header saved which led to Bayern’s opening goal and was a continual thorn in Leverkusen’s side.
The 28-year-old made it 3-1 after finding more open space in the box, was fortunate with his second as Bayern made it 5-1, but there was no doubt about his third as he latched onto Thiago’s long free kick, controlled and slotted past Leno to make it 6-2.
Müller essentially has a free role which enables him to drift wide, drop deep and take up the striker role when opportunities arise. It is extremely difficult to defend and Leverkusen found out the hard way.
Heiko Herrlich gets it wrong
The Bayer Leverkusen coach switched from three central defenders to a back four with the game level at 1-1 at half-time against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. Leon Bailey switched from left wing-back to the right wing, Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland had more space as a result and Herrlich’s changes were a major reason why his side dominated the second half and ran out 4-1 winners.
Leverkusen battled back from an early 2-0 deficit against Bayern Munich and had good chances to equalise before half-time with Bellarabi’s shot well saved by Sven Ulreich, Havertz with a deflected effort and Jonathan Tah heading the resulting corner over the bar.
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were largely being held in check and there was optimism amongst the crowd when all seemed doomed after just nine minutes. Herrlich abandoned the back four at half-time with Panagiotis Retsos, who picked up an early booking trying to stop Robben, off for Bailey who moved to left wing-back with Brandt switching to right wing-back.
It was the complete opposite to the successful changes Herrlich made just three days earlier. Leverkusen did have two great chances to equalise after the break through Volland and Bellarabi, but it was all undone with Bayern scoring three times in just 12 minutes to seal the deal.
Bailey and Brandt did their best but they are not wing-backs, and Leverkusen’s attacking options are limited as a result. Leverkusen’s back three had no answers to Bayern’s movement in the second half, Herrlich bringing on Benjamin Henrichs and reverting to a 4-2-3-1 with his side down 5-1, Bailey scoring a consolation free kick not long after, but the damage had been well and truly done.
Missed opportunities costly
It goes without saying that you have to take your chances in football. Leverkusen created some great opportunities at key moments against Bayern but were unable to take advantage. Die Werkself had a chance to cancel out Bayern’s early goal with Bellarabi’s cross finding Volland who couldn’t beat Ulreich. It was soon 2-0.
Leverkusen had two more quality chances after the break but were thwarted by desperate Bayern defending. It was soon 5-1, the Bavarians scoring three goals in quick succession to end the contest and break the spirit of the home supporters.
It was a harsh lesson for Leverkusen who did their best to go toe to toe with the German champions, but in the end missed chances at opportune moments didn’t help their cause. It probably made no difference to the final result, but Herrlich’s side will have to be more clinical if they want to match it with the best sides in Europe next season.
By Matthew Marshall.