Bundesliga Zeitung by Andy Wales.
Those watching Saturday’s top spiel in the Bundesliga were treated to a tremendous evening of entertainment.
Bayer Leverkusen versus Borussia Dortmund is a fixture that rarely disappoints, and with some of the attacking talent on display, expectations were high.
Despite the loss of Marco Reus through injury, Dortmund still had the likes of Julian Brandt, Jadon Sancho, and Erling Haaland to call on.
Meanwhile, Leverkusen could boast Kai Havertz, Kevin Volland, and Moussa Diaby in their starting line-up. With all these names and two defences that are not known for being tight, goals were on the menu.
In that respect, neither side disappointed. Some of the defending on show, particularly at set-pieces, was not good, but some of the attacking was a joy to behold. That being said, Jonathan Tah used his physical attributes to perfection to keep teenage goalscoring sensation Haaland quiet in this contest.
— Goal (@goal) February 8, 2020
Beyond the scoreline toing and froing before finishing 4-3 in favour of Leverkusen, talking points included Lars Bender being somewhat fortunate to only get one booking, and Sancho having a goal controversially disallowed by VAR.
The game really turned on the decisions of the respective coaches.
Brandt, injured early on in a challenge by Lars Bender, had to be withdrawn at half-time, but Lucien Favre decided to replace him with youngster Gio Reyna. It was his, seemingly incidental, foul that led to Sancho’s goal being disallowed and Dortmund missed the creativity and control of Brandt.
Emre Can made his first start for Dortmund and scored a magnificent goal, but looked rusty and pulled up with cramp in the second half.
3-2 up. 4-3 down.
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) February 8, 2020
It was here where Favre froze but Leverkusen boss Peter Bosz brought on Leon Bailey for Moussa Diaby.
With Can struggling and Dortmund slipping deeper, Bailey made an impact and the hosts went from 3-2 down to 4-3 up in a matter of minutes.
Dortmund will perhaps wonder how they managed to lose a game they had in their grasp. A feeling that is all too familiar over the past 13 months under Favre. Yes, individual mistakes have cost them, but their defensive structure, particularly in transition, is poor and has cost them goals, points and a Bundesliga title last year. Odds are that it will be the same result come May.
A victory would have taken Dortmund level on points with Bayern at the top of the table, albeit behind on goal difference. A weekend of ‘what-ifs’ for the black and yellow.
Attention shifted south on Sunday as the top two, Bayern and Leipzig, went head-to-head. Fortunately, this match went ahead as the storm that claimed the Borussia Mönchengladbach versus Köln local derby had not yet reached Bavaria.
It was a game seen as a real test of Leipzig’s credentials to be potential champions.
Julian Nagelsmann’s side had seen their form fluctuate since returning from the winter break. By contrast, Bayern have been imperious under Hansi Flick, winning all three Bundesliga games since the start of the Rückrunde.
Eyes were also on the league’s two most prolific strikers: Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner. With the Bayern hitman two goals ahead of his rival on 22, could he extend his lead at the top of the charts, or could the young pretender to his throne close in, catch, or even overtake the master?
The first half was one of Bayern domination, but for all their superiority, they couldn’t fashion up a goal.
Werner was being deployed deeper, as onlookers were left scratching their heads at Nagelsmann’s game plan.
The highly-rated Leipzig coach is known for his tactical acumen, but his decision to question his team’s desire to be champions after defeat to Frankfurt was coming further under scrutiny by the break.
Leipzig fought their way back into their previous game against Mönchengladbach, and although there was no two-goal deficit here, they responded in a similar fashion.
Marcel Sabitzer blazed over a great opportunity to score and Werner also failed to take advantage of a rush of blood from Manuel Neuer. Leipzig were back in this and looking dangerous on the counter with the blistering pace of Werner.
Bayern finally had a challenge on their hands, but thought they might have had a breakthrough when the referee awarded a penalty for a Dayot Upamecano foul on Lewandowski. A reprieve for the visitors came from VAR as Lewandowski was offside before the foul.
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) February 9, 2020
Werner looked a certainty to break the deadlock as Christopher Nkunku squared to set up the type of chance Werner has finished so often this season. However, it sailed wide as the Allianz held its breath.
There was still time for Peter Gulacsi to pull off a smart save to deny Leon Goretzka, and the game ended goalless.
Both teams will likely look back on the game with a degree of frustration that they didn’t do better with their chances to take all three points. But it will be Dortmund feeling even more frustrated that they are not now sitting level with Leipzig and a solitary point behind Bayern.
It was a weekend when all three of the Bundesliga’s hottest strikers drew a blank, but the title race is still firing.