Business as usual in a comfortable victory for Bayern Munich, even if the low-key, low-volume return of the Bundesliga is still a highly unusual sight to behold.
Taking three points from Union moved Germany’s perennial champions four points ahead of Borussia Dortmund, and the two meet in Der Klassiker on 26 May. Robert Lewandowski collected his customary goal with a penalty and Benjamin Pavard later headed home a Joshua Kimmich header for the second. But Bayern may need to find extra gears against Dortmund, highly impressive in beating Schalke 4-0 on Saturday. Win that and a ninth successive title would be within reach for the Bavarian club.
Union, safely in mid-table, have performed creditably since last summer’s promotion from the Bundesliga II but they were facing the ultimate test in German football and doing so without fans who usually provide them fervent support. Also absent was the Union coach Urs Fischer after he broke quarantine last week to return home to Switzerland after a family bereavement.
The Union plan was clear: sit back, soak up pressure and see what might arise from counterattacks and set pieces. Anthony Ujah, their Nigerian forward, fired a shot wide in the early stages but Hansi Flick’s league leaders quickly settled into a dominance of possession and started creating chances.
Bayern had the ball in the net in the 18th minute only for Thomas Müller to be ruled offside after he took a final – and unnecessary – touch of a Serge Gnabry header that was heading goalwards. The VAR decision, which took a while to come, was greeted by a throaty roar from the home bench and those Union affiliates of the 200 or so allowed into the small stadium situated in a forest on the fringes of Germany’s capital.
The first half hour saw Union offer stiff resistance, reducing Lewandowski to penalty-area scraps amid some frustration for this team. Alphonso Davies’s high tackle on Grischa Prömel brought the Canadian a yellow card, and the injured party’s screams of pain were clearly audible.
Then came Neven Subotic’s flailing foul on Bayern’s Leon Goretska, who had blindsided the Serb, and a chance from the spot that Lewandowski was never going to pass up. The Polish striker scored his 40th of the season with a feint, a jump and a firm finish beyond his compatriot Rafał Gikiewicz in the Union goal.
Bayern’s chances began piling up either side of the interval, including a long-ranger and a header from the excellent Pavard, and a whipped shot from the right from the lively Goretska, but they struggled to produce the slick football they had played pre-lockdown. Kingsley Coman, on as a second-half substitute, howled in anguish when his driven cross failed to find any takers before Pavard’s neck muscles made sure of the result 10 minutes from time.
A controlled performance featuring few scares made it 13 wins from Bayern’s last 14 matches. But Dortmund a week on Tuesday will be far more indicative of whether the league title will return to its perennial destination in these most unusual of times.