Bayern ran over Leverkusen after a difficult first twenty minutes. The game showed that the Bavarians’ mentality and determination is part of why they’re in a class of their own.
Peter Bosz dared to do what not many Bundesliga managers attempt against Bayern. The Leverkusen manager had his team press die Roten high up the pitch, leaving very little space for defenders to build the game up from the back. Think of what Jürgen Klopp devised for his Borussia Dortmund side in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final.
Indeed, Bosz’s plan put Bayern in a hard spot early on in the game. Lucas Alario sent the Werkself ahead with a movement that started with the high press. David Alaba tried to execute the offside trap, but the whole defence was in an uncomfortable stance to begin with. He missed the mark by mere millimetres.
Leverkusen’s opener came in the ninth minute, and it took Bayern the better part of the first half to assert dominance on proceedings. But it wasn’t only Hansi Flick’s sound tactical disposition or the gulf in class between the teams that tipped the balance. Bayern stormed ahead in good measure thanks to their iron-clad determination and drive.
The hallmark of champions
It’s a perennial trademark of Bayern in Germany. They know they can beat any and every team in the Bundesliga, even if they, inevitably, sometimes don’t. There is a fresh precedent for this. The 2018-19 campaign seemed to be the first where Bayern would not lift the Meisterschale since 2013. A scintillating Rückrunde and what can only be called an abdication by Borussia Dortmund reversed that trend.
When Toni Kroos scored a late winner against Sweden in the 2018 World Cup, the FIFA TV commentator said “When they are down, when they are tested, they find a way to win”.
This applies to Bayern in 2018-19 as much as it does today against Leverkusen. Bayern saw Bosz’s plan, and despite being startled by it at first, they slowly twisted the knob the other way. Leverkusen couldn’t cope, and the Bavarians ended up asphyxiating them. So much for what was a sound and intelligent game plan. And so the game as a microcosm of Bayern’s mental strength: Dortmund capitulated in the Bundesliga in 2019. Leverkusen capitulated today. Bayern rose victorious after going down with a bad hit.
Bayern-Dusel? Maybe more like Bayern-Mentalität.