Union Berlin 0-2 Bayern Munich: Dominant Bayern distance themselves from chasing pack
(Photo by HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Some things never change.

The football world may still be adjusting to the eerie, sterile atmosphere of matches without fans, the socially-distanced, mask-bearing substitutes and the withdrawn goal celebrations, but Bayern Munich dispatching domestic opposition is familiar-viewing for those well-acquainted with German football. And so too is Robert Lewandoski finding the back of the net.

It was a timely victory for the Bavarian giants, with Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach breathing down their neck after comprehensive victories against Schalke and Eintracht Frankfurt respectively. The gap between them and Lucien Favre's men had been reduced to just one point prior to today's fixture. 

Bayern, though, responded competently with an authoritative performance in the German capital.

In other circumstances, this fixture may have posed a relatively formidable challenge for the league leaders, with Union having developed a reputation as veritable giant-killers after beating both Dortmund and Gladbach before the season was brought to a halt.

But, with no fans and their manager, Urs Fischer, banned from attending after breaching quarantine protocols due to a family bereavement, it proved an insurmountable task for the hosts. Their performance wasn't short of effort, but the lack of innovation in the final third made Bayern's task relatively simple.

As it happened

The hosts may have been without their raucous fanbase willing them on, but it was they who began the sharper of the two sides,  repeatedly targeting Bayern's high line with long balls over the top.

Marius Bülter managed the match's first shot on target, but could only aim straight down the throat of Manuel Neuer after some tidy work by the corner flag from Grischa Prömel. Latching onto the end of a lifted ball in behind, Anthony Ujah was next to fancy his chances on goal, yet he too was unable to find the net, firing well over.

Indeed, Union were the more effective in the opening stages, but it was not long before Bayern began flexing their superior technical muscle. Circulating the ball slickly, Flick's men patiently waited for inroads as Union attempted to hold their defensive shape, which to their credit, they did well.

In the 17th minute, Bayern appeared to take the lead, after Leon Goretzka won the initial header from a corner, and Serge Gnabry reached the second ball to head back across goal. The effort was on target, though Thomas Müller, seemingly unaware of the trajectory,  intervened and prodded home from an offside position. After a lengthy VAR deliberation, the goal was ruled out.

Nevertheless, considering their wealth of illustrious attacking talent,   Bayern's breakthrough always seemed inevitable, even if Union's stoic defending was forcing them to work. 

Again, the visitors went close when Alphonso Davies' low cross squirmed from the grasp of Union keeper Rafał Gikiewicz, just evading the onrushing Lewandoski. Union were sat deep, but Bayern were getting closer.

In the 39th minute, they finally broke the deadlock when Goretzka nipped in front of veteran defender Neven Subotic as he was trying to clear. Goretzka was hacked to the ground, a stonewall penalty, and Lewandoski, unsurprisingly, made no mistake from the spot as he stroked home his 26th goal in the Bundesliga this season.

Bayern picked up from where they left off in the second half, dominating the ball and, quite frankly, the match as a whole. Goretzka shot inches wide from a promising position on the right flank, Muller the creator once again with an enterprising backheel. 

The hosts were clearly suffering without the support of the fans as Bayern continued to control proceedings, repeatedly getting to the byline and wreaking havoc in the Union penalty area. Benjamin Pavard went close with a header from a corner.

Union had been retreating increasingly deep, but in a rare period of possession in the 76th minute, they committed men forward, leaving themselves exposed at the back. Bayern countered on this as Gnabry drove up the pitch and played Kingsley Coman through to his right-hand side, whose delivery across goal was too fast to be met by any of the Bayern attackers.

Bayern would put the contest to bed in the 80th minute courtesy of another Pavard header from a corner, this time the Frenchman ensuring it found the back of the net. Union had begun to emerge from their shell, and, to their credit, they didn't give up the fight until the final whistle as Felix Kroos tested Neuer late on.

Yet for the managerless Union, it was too little, too late, as Bayern strengthened their hold on the top spot.

Lewandoski closes in on Muller's record

With the Bundesliga taking centre stage in the absence of other European leagues, Robert Lewandowski's active pursuit of Gerd Müller's 40-goal record is drawing the attention of fans around the world.

The prolific Pole has always been renowned as one of Europe's elite strikers, but this season he has scaled new heights, with today's penalty conversion marking his 40th goal in all competitions and his 26th Bundesliga goal with 8 games still to be played. 

The appointment of Hansi Flick in November has been integral to this. Flick, who stepped up from his role as assistant manager to Niko Kovac,  has managed to restore Bayern's tactical identity as a proactive, possession-based side, which has led to more passes into the final third for Lewandowski, the penalty-box predator, to feed off. 

To eclipse Muller’s record at this stage will take some doing - 15 goals in eight games, to be exact. But then again, having once scored five goals in nine minutes, Lewandowski is no normal striker.

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