Bayer Leverkusen and coach Xabi Alonso took a big step closer to ending Bayern Munich’s domination of the Bundesliga as they beat Bayern 3-0 on Saturday.
It’s carnival season in the Rhineland, and Leverkusen fans, many of them in costume, had plenty to celebrate as Xabi Alonso’s team barely allowed Bayern a chance to score.
It was Leverkusen’s 31st game this season without a loss in all competitions, a remarkable campaign for a team which was in the relegation zone when Alonso took charge in Oct. 2022. Alonso celebrated with Bayer Leverkusen’s players and fans after the biggest win to date in his brief coaching career.
“The level of the team is growing, the team is ready to know how to play not-so-nice games and not to fall apart,” Alonso said. “The team spirit is great, the commitment from the players is the key for me, and we need to keep going.”
The loss for Bayern leaves the 11-time defending champion facing a possible end to its run of titles. “We’ll be the last ones to stop believing,” Tuchel said.
After a kickoff delayed by fan protests, it was a Bayern player who scored the first goal — but he wasn’t playing for Bayern.
Right back Josip Stanišić, sent out on loan to Leverkusen at the start of the season, popped up at the far post to score off Robert Andrich’s low cross in the 18th minute after Bayern seemed to be taken by surprise by Leverkusen’s quick throw-in routine.
Stanišić put his hands up in apology and barely celebrated his first Bundesliga goal in nearly two years, though his teammates certainly did.
Leverkusen made it 2-0 with an incisive counter early in the second half, Grimaldo sprinting down the left flank and playing a one-two with Nathan Tella before lofting a shot over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Jeremie Frimpong added a third in stoppage time into the empty net after Neuer had gone up for a Bayern corner.
The game was a comprehensive tactical victory for Alonso over Thomas Tuchel and Bayern, which couldn’t break through Leverkusen’s defense. Harry Kane has scored 24 goals in 20 Bundesliga games since joining Bayern but had few chances to score as Leverkusen squeezed him out of the game, even though Bayern finished with five specialist forwards on the field at once.
Alonso switched to a back four from his usual three-at-the-back formation and benched Frimpong to deploy Stanišić on the right of defense for the first time this season. Tuchel started new signing Sacha Boey, normally a right back, on the left side and he was out of position for Stanišić’s opening goal.
“We wanted to be flexible with the ball, without the ball,” Alonso said and paid tribute to his front three of Tella, Florian Wirtz and Amine Adli for intense running without the ball to force turnovers.
Also Saturday, Union Berlin beat Wolfsburg 1-0 in a game that had repeated interruptions, about 30 minutes in total, as fans threw tennis balls onto the field in protest at the league’s planned investment deal.
The referee took the players to the locker rooms in the first half after stoppages to clear away tennis balls thrown by Union fans. When play resumed, there was another interruption when Wolfsburg fans threw more balls. Long-running protests against the German league’s plans to sell a stake of revenue to an outside investor have intensified as talks are held with prospective buyers.
Danilho Doekhi headed the only goal for Union in the 21st minute of first-half stoppage time.
Fifth-place Leipzig drew 2-2 at Augsburg to lose more ground in the race for the Champions League places. Leipzig has four points from five games since the new year.
United States midfielder Lennard Maloney scored his first career Bundesliga goal for Heidenheim in a 2-1 win at Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt was held to a 1-1 draw by Bochum and Borussia Moenchengladbach and Darmstadt played out a 0-0 draw.