Germany: Bundesliga
2 - 2
(1 - 1)
FC Bayern
H. Kane (7), L. Goretzka (86)
Á. Grimaldo (24), E. Palacios (90)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Leverkusen maintain top spot following draw in Munich

The hotly-anticipated clash between the first and second placed teams in the table during Friday night's 2023/24 German Bundesliga round four "curtain-raiser" didn't disappoint. Four goals were netted at FC Bayern München's Allianz Arena in the first game back from the international break. Many more could have been scored. 

A 2-2 draw for Leverkusen mean that Xabi Alonso's Werkself will retain top spot in the Bundesliga table through the end of the weekend. Thomas Tuchel's defending champs will have to settle for second for now. Neither team can be caught by any other club in the current Bundesliga field. 
Surprise league-leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen had a chance to hold off German record champions FC Bayern München and maintain top spot with a draw at the Allianz Arena on Friday night in Munich. Thanks to a late penalty, Xabi Alonso's red company team were able to accomplish just that. A 2-2 draw means that Leverkusen will maintain top spot throughout the weekend. Thomas Tuchel's Bavarians are locked into second place. Bayer are the Bundesliga's #1 thanks to goal differential.

Bayer trainer Xabi made one change to the XI that routed Darmstadt 5-1 on the final match-day before the international break. After vocally complaining about his lack of playing time earlier this week, Robert Andrich was given the nod over Exequiel Palacios in central midfield. FCB trainer Tuchel had to make two changes to the squad that bested Gladbach 2-1 in the previous round. French international Kingsley Coman had to pass due to muscular issues and was replaced by Serge Gnabry on the left wing. Konrad Laimer also started out of position over Noussair Mazraoui at right back.

The Bavarians took control of the game from the very start, controlling all of the possession in the opening minutes. An early 1-0 lead for the record champions came off a corner in the 7th. Leverkusen defender Edmond Tapsoba inadvertently directed a service from the flag directly into the path of Harry Kane. Bayern's star summer acquisition easily headed the ball home at the far left post. Bayern continued to press in search of another goal and the league-leaders weren't able to calm things down until about 20 minutes in.

Totally against the run-of-play, however, Germany's red company team were able to snatch the equalizer from their own dead-ball situation in the 24th. New Bayer summer acquisition Alejandro Grimaldo bent a beautiful finish over the Bayern wall from approximately 18 meters outside the box central. FCB keeper Sven Ulreich stretched in vain to prevent Grimaldo's tracer-bullet finish from bulging the top right corner. With the scoreline level, an immensely entertaining end-to-end encounter broke out.

Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface came close with chances. The latter Leverkusen attacker saw a goal disallowed for offside in the 33rd. At the other end, Gnabry, Thomas Müller, Leroy Sané and Leon Goretzka forced saves out of B04 keeper Lukas Hradecky. Gnabry came tantalizingly close to scoring on two separate chances at 45+1. Somehow, the two teams filed into the locker room with the score still tied 1-1. Bayern retained clear advantages in terms of possession, shots, and xG.

Xabi opted to take Andrich off at the half and reunited the midfield partnership of Palacios and Granit Xhaka. The guests appeared to exhibit better attacking flow in the first few minutes after the restart. Jeremie Frimpong attained some penetration before being shut down by the FCB central defensive ranks. Boniface nearly caught Ulreich off his line in the 52nd. Hradeck made a fine save on Kane from point blank range five minutes later. Tuchel introduced some fresh legs for the final push, bringing on Mazraoui, Jamal Musiala, and Mathys Tel for the final push.

It was nevertheless Xabi's Werkself who looked more dynamic in attack down the stretch, though multiple interruptions did impede the overall flow. Florian Wirtz was somewhat unlucky to hit the post after a nice one-two with Boniface in the 78th. Ulreich had to be on-point to stop a charging Boniface one minute later. Shortly after Boniface couldn't quite get a pair of efforts on target late-on, FCB sub Tel set-up the 2-1 with an excellent dribble past Odilon Kossounou on the left in the 86th. Tel squared for a wide open Goretzka, who scored his first league goal since November of last year.

Boniface nearly supplied the direct answer, but shot over shortly after Grimaldo set him up in the 88th. The visiting Westphalians were gifted a chance to equalize from the spot at 90+3. Referee Daniel Schlager ruled that light contact from behind from Alphonso Davies on Hofmann was enough to warrant a penalty. The subbed-on Palacios stepped forward to convert the 2-2 at 90+4. There was late drama at 90+8 when it appeared that Dayot Upamecano had put Bayern back in the lead. The FCB defender's tally nonetheless didn't count as he was clearly offside.

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