Leverkusen 1-1 Bayern: similar formations, different styles, and an even game
A decent game where neither side truly hit top form.
Leverkusen kept the broad 4-2-3-1 system they’ve favoured this season, making two changes – Sami Hyypia came in at the back for Stefan Reinartz, whilst Erin Derdiyok was back in place of Patrick Helmes.
Bayern also made two changes within a 4-2-3-1. Thomas Mueller came in for Hamit Altintop in a narrow right-sided role, whilst Brazilian centre-back Breno started in place of Martin Demichelis.
The most notable aspect of the game was the difference in the two sides’ pressing. Leverkusen were much better at closing down all over the pitch, causing Bayern’s centre-backs to misplace passes. Frequently, Bayern would try and play out from the back to their centre-backs, only to have to lay the ball back to Hans-Jorg Butt again, who would eventually launch it down field. On the other hand, Bayern’s forwards generally dropped off towards the halfway line, giving Hyypia and Manuel Friedrich time on the ball.
This was probably a response from Louis van Gaal to Leverkusen’s apparent desire to play on the break – if Bayern denied Leverkusen space in behind and instead got men behind the ball, there was less chance in Leverkusen being able to play in this fashion.
However, they did occasionally break forward dangerously when Bayern had got men forward into the box. They probably should have scored on one of these counters but for some poor decision-making and a lack of ruthlessness in the final third – Vidal was breaking from midfield well, to make the front four a front five.
Sam the star man
When counter-attacking was not an option, Leverkusen tried to play down the right, by knocking direct balls out towards Sidney Sam, who was probably the game’s best player. His ability to either cut inside or go down the line meant Danijel Pranjic had a torrid time at left-back, and the breakthrough looked like coming from that side.
With Tranquilo Barnetta cutting in on the opposite flank, Sam provided the only natural width in the game. Bayern used Mueller and Toni Kroos on the flanks but both came inside and looked to receive short passes, leaving the full-backs to provide width on the overlap – both Lahm and Pranjic got forward well in the first half, and Lahm played a part in Bayern’s excellent opener, a 14-pass move eventually finished by Mario Gomez.
Lapse in pressing
That goal was notable for the fact that Leverkusen weren’t pressing well in midfield at that particular time, and for the first time in the match Bayern had the opportunity to get the ball down and play. The eventual goal was a justification of Jupp Heynckes’ insistence that Leverkusen try to break up Bayern’s passing in midfield – they just didn’t do it very well for the goal.
Still, the full-backs didn’t receive enough protection throughout the game – particularly Pranjic, and he tripped Sam to give away a cheap penalty, which was converted by Vidal.
Into the second half both sides kept the 4-2-3-1 shapes they’d started the game with, and neither manager looked to change much tactically, aside from the introduction of Franck Ribery midway through the second period, which meant Bastian Schweinsteiger moving back into a holding position, and Toni Kroos coming inside. Ribery caused substitute right-back Castro a couple of problems but the game remained evenly-balanced – Derdiyok had the best chance at 1-1, but shot straight at Hans-Jorg Butt.
Not an overwhelmingly exciting game in tactical terms – the formation clash was 4-2-3-1 v 4-2-3-1, although there were differences in terms of pressing, and in terms of width.
Neither manager took the initiative and tried to win the game, with the result that both lost ground on league leaders Dortmund.