James Rodriguez nets stunner as Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich begin 2018 with hard-fought win at Bayer Leverkusen
Even without injured leading scorer Robert Lewandowski, Bayern carried the greater attacking threat in a dominant first-half showing. Former Leverkusen midfielder Arturo Vidal twice warmed the palms of Bernd Leno, before making a telling contribution to the opening goal. The Chile international met an Arjen Robben corner, with Javi Martinez pouncing on a deflection off Lars Bender to open the scoring with aplomb. Leverkusen’s only real chance of note came on the back of a driving run and deflected effort from Leon Bailey, but Dominik Kohr sent the ensuing corner wide.
Leverkusen went up a gear after the restart as Julian Brandt lashed a free-kick wide and Bailey clipped the crossbar from 18 yards. The hosts’ endeavour left them susceptible to the counter, however, and when James picked out the run of Franck Ribery, the Frenchman calmly tucked in to give Bayern a two-goal cushion with less than an hour gone. A deflected Kevin Volland strike halved the deficit, but the defending champions had the final say when James whipped an unstoppable free-kick beyond the despairing dive of Leno to wrap up the win in added time.
Watch: Javi Martinez explains his thumb-sucking goal celebration
Man of the Match
A menace in the No.10 role, James followed up his assist for Ribery with a simply stunning goal in what was perhaps his most eye-catching display in a Bayern shirt to date.
- James scored his third Bundesliga goal, after efforts against Schalke and RB Leipzig.
- Martinez scored his first Bundesliga goal of the season and first in 10 months since he netted in a 3-0 win at Cologne.
- Ribery’s last goal under Jupp Heynckes came in the 2012/13 treble-winning season.
- Bayer’s Volland is the highest-scoring German in the Bundesliga this season (10 goals).
- Sandro Wagner made his first Bayern appearance since September 2007.
- Die Werkself‘s 12-match streak was the longest unbeaten run of any Bundesliga side this season.
Leverkusen: Leno – Tah, S. Bender, Wendell – Bellarabi (Henrichs 60′), L. Bender (c), Kohr (Alario 64′), Bailey – Havertz, Volland, Brandt (Mehmedi 76′)
Unused subs: Özcan, Retsos, Baumgartlinger, Aranguiz
Coach: Heiko Herrlich
Bayern: Ulreich – Rafinha, Boateng, Süle, Alaba – Martinez, Vidal – Robben (Coman 65′), James, Ribery (Wagner 78′) – Müller (c) (Tolisso 90+2′)
Unused subs: Starke, Bernat, Rudy, Kimmich
Absentees: Neuer (foot), Früchtl (foot), Hummels (groin), Lewandowski (knee), Thiago (muscle tear)
Coach: Jupp Heynckes
Watch: Leon Bailey reflects on Leverkusen’s defeat to Bayern