Bayern Munich crushed Bayer Leverkusen 6-2 at the BayArena to advance to the DFB-Pokal Final. Thomas Müller came away with a hat-trick as the Bavarians showed no mercy, inching closer to the treble.
Bayern took the lead in the second minute. Müller was left open at the back post, his header saved but falling straight to Javi Martinez who passed it into the bottom corner.
Leverkusen had a great chance to equalise minutes later with a fast break through Karim Bellarabi, his cross found Kevin Volland who saw his header saved by Sven Ulreich. It proved a costly miss as Bayern soon made it 2-0.
Franck Ribery was afforded too much time and space in the box, his cross finding Robert Lewandowski at the back post who side footed past Bernd Leno.
Die Werkself didn’t have to wait long to pull one back however. Julian Brandt’s free kick produced a scramble in the box, Kai Havertz had his shot blocked but the ball fell nicely to Lars Bender who headed home to make it 2-1.
Havertz broke free but couldn’t find Volland before Sven Bender had half a chance from a tight angle following a corner. At the other end Müller had a shot saved before setting up Robert Lewandowski who went close.
Bellarabi then combined with Havertz who won a corner which almost resulted in the equaliser. Brandt’s corner fell to Bellarabi outside the area, he hit a sweet left-footed volley but Ulreich was equal to it with a fine save.
Volland then broke down the left wing, crossing to Havertz who tried to make room for himself but his shot was deflected for a corner from which Jonathan Tah headed over.
It was a good end to the first half for the home side, giving their fans optimism when Bayern had almost extinguished it within the opening 10 minutes.
Heiko Herrlich brought on Leon Bailey for Panagiotis Retsos at half time with a switch to a 3-5-2 formation with Bailey at left wing-back and Brandt on the right. Rafinha replaced David Alaba for the Bayern in a straight switch.
Leverkusen had two great chances to equalise with Volland having his shot blocked by Mats Hummels before Ulreich produced a fine save from a close range attempt from Bellarabi.
The misses proved costly as Müller soon made it 3-1. Thiago found the roaming attacker in too much space in the area, Müller with taking a touch before picking his spot under Leno.
Volland scored from an offside position but it was soon 4-1. Ribery found Arjen Robben in open space inside the area, the ball fell to Thiago who waltzed over to the penalty spot and placed it in the bottom corner.
Lucas Alario came on for Julian Baumgartlinger but it was soon 5-1. Rafinha broke in the area before cutting the ball back to Robben, the wingers shot taking a slight deflection off Müller from a yard out.
Herrlich reacted to the carnage by bringing on Bellarabi for Benjamin Henrichs and reverting to the 4-2-3-1 that did the damage in the second half against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
Once again it paid dividends as Leverkusen pulled a goal back. Ribery fouled Bailey who stepped up with an unstoppable free kick past Ulreich from distance.
It proved to be nothing more than a hollow consolation however as Müller soon wrapped up his hat-trick. A Bayern free kick from the halfway line sailed over Lars Bender and Henrichs, Müller controlled the ball before holding off Henrichs and slotting past Leno.
Müller was immediately substituted for James Rodriguez and Niklas Süle then came on for Thiago. Bayern almost made it 7-2 as Martinez headed a corner at Leno who produced a fine save, from the resulting corner Robben had an effort with Leno once again up to the task.
It was a harsh lesson for Leverkusen who had good chances to score at key moments but couldn’t find the back of the net when it mattered. Herrlich’s half time alterations failed despite Volland and Bellarabi going close after the break.
Bailey and Brandt as wing-backs didn’t work and before Herrlich had time to react it was 5-1 and game over. Why the Leverkusen manager reverted to the formation that wasn’t particularly effective in the first half against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday is a mystery to this reporter.
It probably made no difference in the end as Bayern punished defensive errors from Leverkusen as their class shone through. With Robben, Ribery and Lewandowski keeping defenders busy and Müller roaming where he pleases, it’s a very difficult combination to nullify.
Die Werkself will be disappointed but there is still much to play for this season. With just four games to play in the Bundesliga, they are well placed to return to the Champions League next season which would represent a successful campaign in Herrlich’s first as manager.
First stop is a trip to the Signal Iduna park to face Borussia Dortmund on Saturday afternoon which shapes up to be the game of Matchday 31. Bayern Munich can now prepare for their toughest test of the season, a Champions League semi-final first leg at the Allianz Arena against Real Madrid on Wednesday 25 April.
By Matthew Marshall.