FC Bayern Munich in Bundesliga 1:1 against Bayer Leverkusen

An the tenth day that Russian tanks are rolling through Ukraine, that Russian missiles are flying through Ukraine, that Russian soldiers are killing in Ukraine, 25,000 people are standing in front of their seats in the soccer arena in Munich and are silent. As a “sign of solidarity,” says the stadium announcer. At this moment you can see the national colors of Ukraine: blue and yellow. On the screens. On the advertising boards. On the warm-up shirts of the FC Bayern players. They lined up with the Bayer Leverkusen players and the referees around the center circle. Inside is a banner with the inscription: “End the war”.

It is Saturday, 3:28 p.m., when the Russian war of aggression in the Ukraine is the focus of attention before the Bundesliga top game kicks off in Munich, where people are at best fearing for their lives and at worst losing their lives. From this point of view, it can only be irrelevant that FC Bayern then played 1-1 against Leverkusen, that they are now nine points ahead of Borussia Dortmund in the table (the BVB game was canceled due to a Covid 19 outbreak in Mainz relocated). And yet you could see on Saturday what such a Bundesliga game can achieve. It gave the 25,000 people in the stadium, and presumably those watching on TV, a chance to get upset over something as trivial as a pass or a whistle. It gave them the privilege of blocking out the madness of the world for at least 90 minutes.

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And so to the insignificant.

Gerardo Seoane, coach of third-placed Leverkusen, relies on a five-man defense on the 25th matchday of the Bundesliga. He fields Jeremie Frimpong, Edmond Tapsoba, Jonathan Tah, Piero Hincapié and Mitchel Bakker. And that despite the fact that his team scored 63 goals in 24 games before that. In Munich, however, Seoane relies on security – and still sees that one of his players has the first chance to score. In the eighth minute, Amine Adli shoots the ball, which Jamal Musiala lost in his own penalty area, just wide of the goal. After that, however, Bayern dominate. They storm with Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, with Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller, who is playing again for the first time since his corona infection – and prevented his team from scoring in the 16th minute. He runs into the ball that Lewandowski just kicked in front of the unguarded goal line. Or does the ball run into him? In fact, Müller is a master at predicting the paths of the ball, which remain unfathomable even for professional footballers, and then directing this ball in the right direction. Now he accidentally steers it into the wrong one and thus past the empty goal. Two minutes later the ball is in there. Corner, chaos in the penalty area, shot by central defender Niklas Süle – 1:0.

Minute of silence before the game in Munich

Minute of silence before the game in Munich

Image: EPA

“It took us 30 minutes to get used to the new system,” says Seoane later. “Very good control,” says Julian Nagelsmann, the Bayern coach. His team dominates the game. Until Thomas Müller ran into the ball for the second time in the 36th minute. Or more precisely: jumps. In his own penalty area, he unnecessarily stretches his leg to the ball – and deflects it past goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, who is again standing in for the injured Manuel Neuer and has already left his goal in this scene to catch the ball. It is Müller’s first own goal as a professional. The stadium announcer says: “You’re unlucky sometimes.”

Was it the communication?  Munich's Thomas Müller and goalkeeper Sven Ulreich (left) have a lot to talk about after the own goal.

Was it the communication? Munich’s Thomas Müller and goalkeeper Sven Ulreich (left) have a lot to talk about after the own goal.

Image: dpa

But before the break, Bayern are mostly lucky. In the 42nd minute when Adli intercepted a pass from Dayout Upamecano and hit the post. In the 43rd minute, when Adli missed the goal alone in front of Ulreich (even if it would have been offside). In the 45th minute, when Charles Aránguiz couldn’t get the ball past Ulreich from seven yards out. They are minutes of sports spectacle, minutes of distraction.

In the second half, the spectacle is less. Substitute Marcel Sabitzer fails for Munich because of goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky (62nd). For Leverkusen Frimpong fails at Ulreich (87th). That’s it. 1:1 The fans pour out of the stadium – back into the world oppressed by the madness of the Russian President. Into the world, about which Julian Nagelsmann said the day before the game: “It’s actually not the time for entertainment.”