The eagerly-anticipated Bundesliga clash between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig ended in a surprisingly comfortable win for Bayern, with Leipzig playing for an hour with ten men after Emil Forsberg was sent off.
By then the Bavarians were already 2-0 up, with the superb Thiago and Xavi Alonso both scoring, before Robert Lewandowski converted from the penalty spot just before half time.
The champions cruised through the second half without adding to their advantage, and will lead the Bundesliga with a three-point gap during the winter break.
Champions versus pretenders
This was easily the most anticipated game of the Bundesliga season so far, with the sides locked together at the summit of the table, with only goal difference keeping Bayern on top.
Carlo Ancelotti made two changes to the team that laboured to victory at SV Darmstadt 98 on Sunday. Philipp Lahm returned in place of Rafinha at right-back, whilst perhaps of more significance Thomas Müller was omitted in favour of Arjen Robben.
There were no surprises for Leipzig, with an unchanged eleven from the 2-0 win over Hertha BSC on Saturday. That meant both Naby Keïta and Marcel Halstenberg remained in the side despite picking up thigh injuries in that game.
Leipzig sent crashing down to earth
Leipzig gave an early warning shot to their hosts, with a Timo Werner cross right across the goal, however Yussuf Poulsen couldn’t connect. Slowly though Bayern started to take control, with an excellent cross on the by-line by Douglas Costa kept out by Péter Gulácsi.
An excellent passage of football gave them the lead after 16 minutes. The returning duo of Robben and Lahm combined, with the Bayern captain crossing to Lewandowski. He hit the post, but there was Thiago to direct the ball in from the rebound.
The Bayern machine was roaring, with Costa denied again by Gulácsi, and then Keïta was uncharacteristically caught on the ball by Arturo Vidal, costing his side the second goal. Thiago turned provider, with Alonso providing the kind of poacher’s finish from inside the box that isn’t normally his trademark.
Leipzig showed signs of a revival when Manuel Neuer kept out a Willi Orban header, but things soon got worse for them, when Forsberg, such an important player for them this season, launched into a rash challenge into Lahm, sticking his studs in. After consulting his assistant, referee Felix Zwayer showed him a straight red card.
And there was one more hammer blow before the break. A ball from Mats Hummels, fresh with new bleach-blonde hair, found Costa, with Gulácsi barging into him as he tries to connect with it in the air. Lewandowski took the penalty with complete control, and Bayern were three up just before the break.
Bayern comfortably see out the game
The result was in little doubt by then, with substitutes made by both sides, resting Robben and Keïta, suggesting both felt the game was done. The best it got for Leizpig was Marcel Sabitzer’s shot following a Dominik Kaiser free-kick, which deflected out of play via Javi Martínez.
Otherwise Bayern completely controlled affairs, not showing the urgency to get a fourth but comfortably working through the motions. Lewandowski had two chances saved by Gulácsi, who in general easily dealt with any shot they put on target.
The furthest he had to stretch came in the last five minutes, when he palmed away a well-place Costa free-kick that was bound for the top corner. That triggered a last hurrah, with a Franck Ribéry shot bouncing off the bar and Juan Bernat of all people having a shot blocked by Stefan Illsanker.
Bayern had to settle for three in the end. It meant they lead the Bundesliga by three points going into the winter break, with their superior goal difference also likely to be enough to confirm them as Herbstmeister after the first round of games when the league resumes in January.