Germany: Bundesliga
0 - 4
(0 - 2)
FC Köln
FC Bayern
R. Lewandowski (9), C. Tolisso (25), R. Lewandowski (62), R. Lewandowski (74)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

15.30 Kickoffs: Bayern restore six-point cushion at the top, Union Berlin upset Hoffenheim

FC Bayern München were able to do the 2021/22 double over 1. FC Köln with an emphatic 4-0 victory in the most closely watched of the Bundesliga's round 19 15:30 kickoffs. The win enables Julian Nagelsmann's Bavarians to restore a six-point cushion at the top of the table. 

Other fixtures featured mostly mid-to-lower mid table opponents squaring off against one another. RB Leipzig and FSV Mainz 05 are the table climbers following respective defeats of Stuttgart and Bochum. 

Die Eisernen of 1. FC Union Berlin have actually pulled into the top four following an upset win over Hoffenheim. Leverkusen can still knock the Köpenickers back to fifth before the day is out, however. 
Called upon to make a statement after an emphatic 5-1 victory from title-chasers Borussia Dortmund last night, the Bundesliga's nine-time defending champions did just that on Saturday afternoon at the RheinEnergieStadion. The NRW hosts could not be accused of shying away from the heavily favored guests, but the overall talent disparity enabled Germany's record champions to produce a convincing 4-0 victory.

The personnel situation of Julian Nagelsmann's league leaders had eased somewhat following all of the COVID chaos of last-week. Keeper and captain Manuel Neuer was able to return in time for the fixture, as was winger Corentin Tolisso. The pair replaced Sven Ulreich and Malik Tillman. Nagelsmann lined the Bavarians up in a 4-2-3-1. Some of the emergency personnel measures from last week remained in place. The young tandem of Marc Roca and Jamal Musiala pulled the strings as double sixes. Marcel Sabitzer was once again deployed at left-back.

Steffen Baumgart's Geißböcke were clearly set up to courageously play through the famous FCB high press. The Domstädter trainer organized his men into one of his 4-1-3-2 presses. Salih Özcan worked as an advanced sweeper ahead off the back-four. Ondrej Duda served as the ten, flanked by Florian Kainz and Louis Schaub. Mark Uth accompanied Anthony Modeste to complete the two-striker-set.

Hosts Köln did indeed play with a notably high level of intensity right from the start. Even amidst multiple possessional mistakes, the Effzeh kept trying to force their way through the Bavarian ranks. The first major error of the game nevertheless belonged to Bayern. Niklas Süle gave the ball away deep in the 4th, but Modeste couldn't capitalize after starting his break from an offside position.

Seven minutes later, the FCB showed Köln just how to take advantage of an error. A Duda stray was quickly pounced upon. Thomas Müller made no mistake when the ball reached him, immediately dishing out for Lewandowski. The world's best striker had no problems with the finish and Bayern were up 1-0. Köln's deliberately quick build-up play could not furnish a response. Final passes were sloppy. Modeste and Uth were both caught offside before Bayern scored again.

The 25th-minute 2-0 began with a gorgeous switch from ad-hoc left back Sabitzer. The former Leipzig captain hit Tolisso perfectly with a full lateral. The French international immediately tapped forward for Müller, then put himself in the perfect position for the return ball. The imperious finish will surely compete for some of the "goal-of-the-season" lists. Köln thought that they had pulled a goal back six minutes later, but the tally had to be scratched as Uth was once again offside.

Köln's fighting spirit for the duration of the half was certainly admirable. The central defensive duo of Timo Hübers and Luca Kilian made some nice stops and sparked a few promising counters. Execution from beyond the halfway line was simply far too slipshod. Several breakaway opportunities were squandered. Mere minutes into the second half, the Bavarian visitors began to exert dominance. New Geißböcke #1 Marvin Schwäbe kept his side in it with some solid saves before Leroy Sané put the game out of reach.

Only on the pitch for some forty seconds, Sané immediately made his presence felt with a telegraphed long ball to unlock Lewandowski. Bayern's Super Striker completed his brace for the 3-0 in the 62nd. Sané and Lewandowski linked up again in almost precisely the same fashion some twelve minutes later. Lewandowski commemorated a hat trick in the 74th as Bayern went up 4-0.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga's 15:30 kickoffs, RB Leipzig continued their perfect start to the new calendar year with a 2-0 win in a visit to Stuttgart. In some parallels to last week, André Silva converted an early handball penalty to set the tone. Christopher Nkunku--starting in place of Dominik Szoboszlai in the ten-spot this time--put the game to bed with a tally in the second half. The German Red Bulls continue to fly high, now having secured their first away win of the season.

Over at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei, 1. FC Union Berlin were able to overcome red-hot Hoffenheim 2-1 in a very close and tense affair. The unlikely hero was once again midfielder Grischa Prömel. After scoring a brace last week, the 27-year-old headed home the 73rd minute winner. FSV Mainz 05 have their own hero in the form of the returning Jeremiah St. Juste. The Dutch defender returned from a long injury layoff to help the Nullfünfter to a 1-0 win over Bochum.

The match pejoratively referred to by Germans as the "ICE-Derby" ended 0-0. Neither Hertha BSC nor VfL Wolfsburg were able to produce sustainable confidence for long stretches of the game. Florian Kohfeldt's Autostädter did play a bit better in recent weeks. There were also of officiating controversies in the affair sure to serve as post-match talking point. With the draw, the German Wolves were able to snap a run of eight straight defeats. They nevertheless remain winless in ten on the spin.

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