LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Bayern Munich wanted to send a message to fellow title contenders like Bayer Leverkusen.
Bouncing back from a rare loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in its last game, Bayern dismantled Leverkusen 5-1 on Sunday with two goals apiece from Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry.
Four goals in seven minutes left Leverkusen in tatters before halftime and told rivals that denying Bayern a 10th consecutive title certainly won't be easy, and may be impossible.
Coach Julian Nagelsmann praised his team's progress since the loss to Frankfurt, when Bayern couldn't convert numerous scoring chances.
“We had a phase of 10, 12 minutes when we played extraordinarily well with a lot of pressure" to take the game away from Leverkusen, Nagelsmann said.
Bayern needed less than four minutes to take the lead with a touch of style from Lewandowski. Dayot Upamecano picked up a free kick on the touchline and crossed it low for Lewandowski to score with a backheel. Lewandowski lost no time ending a blip of two games without a goal. The Poland striker's relentless scoring form means that was his worst Bundesliga run since 2019.
Alphonso Davies danced through the Leverkusen penalty area to set up the second before laying the ball off for Lewandowski to apply the finish in the 30th. Then Leverkusen collapsed.
Thomas Müller claimed the third goal in the 34th when Niklas Süle's shot deflected off his thigh and into the net. The fourth came seconds after the restart, Gnabry scoring off Müller's cross as Leverkusen's offside trap misfired. Then came a fifth in the 37th, Gnabry again after combining with Leon Goretzka, as a once-close game turned swiftly into a humiliation.
For the second season in a row, Bayern came to Leverkusen with the clubs at the top of the Bundesliga table and snuffed out Leverkusen’s budding title hopes. At least last year it was close — Lewandowski sealing a 2-1 win in added time — but this time, the young, fast Leverkusen team built by new coach Gerardo Seoane was utterly outclassed.
The win returned Bayern to top spot in the Bundesliga with a one-point lead over Borussia Dortmund, which beat Mainz 3-1 a day earlier. Bayern's only loss so far under Nagelsmann, the 2-1 defeat to Frankfurt on Oct. 3, was due in large part to an exceptional goalkeeping performance by Kevin Trapp and offers no real blueprint to would-be challengers. Leverkusen is third.
Even before halftime, Nagelsmann's thoughts turned to rotating the squad ahead of a Champions League trip to Benfica on Wednesday. Davies was withdrawn for the 21-year-old fringe defender Josip Stanisic in the 40th. Nagelsmann said the Canadian had felt some pain in his thigh. Goretzka came off at halftime, and Lewandowski and Müller followed him to the bench early in the second half.
Leverkusen salvaged a scrap of pride when Patrik Schick scored in the 51st off a sharp through ball from 18-year-old Florian Wirtz, but a comeback was never on the cards. In eight league games this season, Bayern has scored a total of 29 goals.
Also Sunday, Augsburg drew 1-1 with Arminia Bielefeld, thwarting both teams' hopes of putting some distance between themselves and the relegation zone.
Augsburg took the lead when Reece Oxford headed in at a corner, the English defender scoring his first Bundesliga goal after five seasons and 58 games in the league.
Bielefeld didn't have a shot on target until Jacob Laursen volleyed in the equalizer in the 77th. Augsburg is 16th and Bielefeld 17th in the 18-team top flight.
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James Ellingworth, The Associated Press