Bayern Munich move four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga with a cagey 3-2 win over bottom-place Paderborn at the Allianz Arena.
Serge Gnabry gave Bayern the lead inside 26 minutes with an arrowed finish, but an error from Manuel Neuer gifted Dennis Srbeny an equalizer on the cusp of half-time.
Robert Lewandowski restored their lead mid-way into the second half, but Paderborn valiantly responded once again through substitute Sven Michel.
Lewandowski had the last laugh when his 88th minute strike saved Bayern’s blushes and condemned Paderborn to the bottom of the Bundesliga.
Paderborn’s Counter-Attacking Potency Makes for a Feisty Affair
Bayern Munich looked set to be heading for a routine victory when Serge Gnabry broke the deadlock on 26 minutes. Robert Lewandowski had previously missed two opportunities inside the opening quarter of an hour and the hosts looked dominant in possession.
However, Paderborn defended resolutely and posed a dangerous threat on the counter-attack. They stifled Bayern’s build-up play with a compact midfield and eventually reaped the rewards for their disciplined performance by equalising on the cusp of half-time.
Christian Strohdiek launched a hopeful long ball in behind the Bayern defence and Dennis Srbeny sprung the offside trap to surge through on goal. Manuel Neuer recklessly fled from his penalty area and Srbeny punished him ruthlessly by rounding the German international and converting from close-range.
The Allianz Arena had been stunned into silence, but despite their dominance on the ball, the warning signs had been their from the first whistle. Paderborn set-up with the intention of defending in numbers and breaking on the counter-attack, mainly utilising the speed of forwards Streli Mamba and Srbeny.
Mamba had seemingly broke the deadlock inside the opening five minutes when he raced through to dispatch a low finish under Neuer. The linesman subsequently ruled out his goal for offside but the visitors’ threat on the counter-attack proved difficult for Bayern’s shaky defence to contain.
Paderborn’s hard work could’ve been undone in stoppage time when Strohdiek inadvertently diverted the ball onto his own crossbar, but they escaped by the skin of their teeth and ultimately deserved to be level due their endeavour.
Bayern Prevail in Cagey Second Half
Leopold Zingerle was instrumental in keeping Paderborn in the contest with a string of phenomenal saves before the hour-mark. Bayern produced a cavalier counter-attack to break into the penalty area but Zingerle classily flicked Lewandowski’s thunderous strike over the crossbar.
Joshua Kimmich delivered the resulting corner but Zingerle was once again level to Lewandowski’s effort. His darting header was seemingly set to bulge the net but a reactive save spilled the ball back into the danger area until Zingerle hooked the ball away with his trailing leg.
Paderborn had their first opportunity of the second half just past the hour-mark when Michel dispossessed Lucas Hernandez just inside his own half. Thiago was breathing down his neck and ultimately prevented him from putting Paderborn into the lead. His eventual effort was extremely tame and Neuer gathered with ease.
Bayern looked the most likely to score but Zingerle was once again in the way to prevent them from doing so. Gnabry curled a dangerous cross to the back post and Coman’s volley was impressively turned behind at the near post.
The inevitable occurred with 20 minutes remaining when Lewandowski scored his 24th league goal of the season. Proger was dispossessed by Hernandez and the ball broke fortuitously for Gnabry. The German international pulled the ball back at the by-line and Lewandowski gratefully received the gift by burying his finish past Zingerle.
But there was room for another twist in a truly tumultuous affair. Gnabry was at fault when his poor first touch gifted possession to Paderborn. Antwi-Adjei slotted the ball in behind the Bayern defence and Jastrzembski surged into the penalty area. Neuer palmed away his ferocious strike but Michel was lurking to tuck away the follow-up.
Bayern fought hard to restore their lead for the third time and that moment came with just 2 minutes of normal time remaining. It was a dagger to the heart for a Paderborn side which had put in a valiant effort to hold the defending champions, but life is cruel and Lewandowski is great!
Gnabry made amends for his earlier mistake by putting the ball on a plate for Lewandowski to stroke past Zingerle. It wasn’t a stellar performance from the Bayern talisman but all good strikers know where the goal is and Lewandowski is exceptionally good at coming up with the goods.
It could’ve been even harsher on Paderborn had Zingerle not bravely emerged from his goal to foil Gnabry in a one-on-one situation. On the evidence of play, Bayern probably deserved the three points, but football romanticists will protest that Paderborn merited a draw.
Paderborn miss out on the opportunity to move out of the automatic relegation places and stay bottom of the Bundesliga, while Bayern move four points clear of second-place RB Leipzig.