A much-changed Bayern Munich team maintained their perfect start to the Bundesliga season as they started a hectic schedule with a 3-1 victory against 10-man Bayer Leverkusen.
Niko Kovac’s side have seven matches in the next 22 days in all competitions and the Bayern boss shuffled his pack ahead of a trip to Benfica for their Champions League opener on Wednesday.
Serge Gnabry made his first start for the club, while Germany international duo Leon Goretzka (ankle) and Mats Hummels (hip) were rested as a precaution for the midweek clash, with David Alaba and Franck Ribery dropped to the bench.
However, the hosts found themselves behind after just five minutes through Wendell’s early spot-kick, who had Karim Bellarabi dismissed late on, before Corentin Tolisso, Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez turned the match around to earn their third straight league win.
It was an eventful start at the Allianz Arena as Bayern were immediately on the back foot after conceding a penalty in the third minute when Thiago Alcantara handled in the area, following a lengthy Video Assistant Review decision.
The drama did not stop there as Manuel Neuer produced a brilliant save to deny Kevin Volland’s spot-kick, only for the referee to order a retake with Brazilian Wendell taking over the responsibilities to fire home.
Leverkusen were ahead for just five minutes though, as World Cup winner Tolisso made the most of a kind ricochet to curl in a lovely first-time finish to pull Bayern level.
The visitors’ pressing forced Bayern into sloppy mistakes, with Niklas Sule gifting possession away deep in his own half on several occasions but Leverkusen could not capitalise and Kovac’s side eventually took control.
Joshua Kimmich played a long ball downfield but Leverkusen centre-back Jonathan Tah could only head clear into the path of Robben, whose first touch set up a volley which he drilled into the top-left corner to give Bayern the lead for the first time.
Gnabry dragged an effort wide as the hosts began to dictate possession and territory, with Thomas Muller firing a shot straight at Lukas Hradecky before Robben narrowly missed the far post for his second goal following a great passing move by the home side.
After the restart, Bayern continued their dominance with Gnabry heading straight at Hradecky while Robben went close with an effort from range.
Robert Lewandowski, playing his 200th game for the club, needed 63 minutes for his first sighting at goal but the Poland striker’s effort was blocked by a last-ditch Sven Bender tackle.
Kai Havertz fired well wide in a rare Leverkusen attack before their afternoon turned sour as substitute Bellarabi was shown a straight red card for a late stamp on the Achilles of Rafinha, just seven minutes after his introduction.
However, there was still time for Rodriguez to get on the scoresheet after a fast Bayern counter led to Thiago lifting a cross to the far post for the Colombian to head home with a minute remaining.