Bayern wins 5-1 at Leverkusen to go top of Bundesliga

Bayern's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich in Leverkusen, Germany, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry scored twice apiece as Bayern Munich demolished Bayer Leverkusen 5-1 on Sunday to return to the top of the Bundesliga table.

Four goals in seven minutes left Leverkusen in tatters before half-time as Bayern made a statement win to underline why it’s chasing a 10th consecutive title and proved it’s bounced back from a rare defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt last time out.

Bayern needed less than four minutes to take the lead with a touch of style from Lewandowski. Dayot Upamecano picked up an overhit 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 a Müller 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 after being overtaken when Borussia Dortmund beat Mainz 3-1 a day earlier. Bayern’s only loss so far under coach Julian 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 half time, 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, 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 29 times to build an imposing goal difference of 22, meaning an average margin of victory of nearly three goals.

Augsburg hosts Arminia Bielefeld later Sunday.