An early red card for Willi Orban proved decisive as Bayern Munich cruised to victory against RB Leipzig to return to their natural habitat at the top of the Bundesliga.
James Rodríguez scored soon after the VAR-assisted decision to send off the Leipzig defender, with Robert Lewandowski doubling the lead just before the break.
They never looked like letting the lead slip in the second half, and move three points clear in first place, but the one blow was losing Lewandowski to an apparent hamstring injury whilst Leipzig lost Naby Keïta as well.
Leipzig see red against Bayern again
The two teams were renewing hostilities in the league just three days after their gripping match in the DFB-Pokal, with Bayern eventually winning on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Both sides made three changes, with Sebastian Rudy, Javi Martínez and James Rodríguez returning for Bayern and Lukas Klosermann, Diego Demme and Timo Werner all in from the start for Leipzig. With Borussia Dortmund losing to Hannover 96, either side would have gone top with a win here, with Bayern just needing a draw to do so.
Bayern looked to dominate early on, although Werner did have a shot wide for Leipzig, however VAR, conspicuously unavailable on Wednesday night, was able to deliver a heavy blow for Leipzig. Rudy played a through ball to Arjen Robben, who was nudged aside, with no attempt to play the ball, by Orban. Referee Daniel Siebert gave a free-kick and was set to book Orban, but after looking at the video replay he decided it deserved a red, seeing him as the last man.
It was the third time in four matches against Bayern that a Leipzig player had been sent off – as harsh as this particular occasion was – and although Peter Gulácsi was equal to the resulting free-kick from Robben, he set up the opening goal a few minutes later. The Dutchman crossed through the legs of Dayot Upamecano, with Rodríguez there to make it 1-0 to Bayern.
Ralph Hasenhüttl felt forced to sacrifice Werner for Ibrahima Konaté, with the 18-year-old joining 19-year-old Upamecano at the heart of their defence. Needless to stay, Bayern were in control of proceedings, with Lewandowski ruing what should have been the second goal, but his header from Rodríguez’s cross was taken by Gulácsi.
Inevitably, he would get another chance and this time he was not going to make a mistake. Leipzig were doing well to hold back Bayern, but they couldn’t deal with a defence-splitting pass from Martínez. The Pole got ahead of their young defenders and he had no problem placing the ball past Gulácsi – although there was a concern just after, as he appeared to pull a hamstring in the process. His game would end in the final regulation minute of the half.
Cruise control for Bayern
Bruma came on at the break for Marcel Sabitzer and almost made an immediate impact, however his shot did not match his run forward and was easily saved by Sven Ulreich, the hero of Wednesday’s shootout who was barely tested here.
Otherwise, Bayern were able to dominate the midfielder with the benefit of not only the extra man but also with Thiago playing as a false nine. They were content to wait for their chances, with Joshua Kimmich shooting over and both Robben and Rodríguez having shots saved by Gulácsi.
Leipzig were doing a good job of damage limitation, but they didn’t have the armoury to do anything more. For the hosts, it was becoming a procession. Robben, before making way late on, and Rodríguez remained their main attacking threats with further chances for both going wide. Thiago had a header go off target in the final minute as well.
To add injury to insult for Leipzig, they had to finish the game with nine men as Keïta, who had had a quiet match, was forced to give in to an injury that had been troubling him for much of the second half. With Lewandowski going off earlier in the game, it meant both sides had fresh injury concerns going into their UEFA Champions League matches coming up in midweek.
For Bayern though, in the space of only a couple of weeks Jupp Heynckes has led them out of crisis and back to the top of the pile. With Dortmund’s fine start to the campaign in pieces, it would take a brave man, on present form, to bet against them winning a sixth-consecutive title. They must go to Dortmund next weekend though.