Lewandowski carries an injury-hit Bayern Munich over Augsburg

Two goals from Robert Lewandowski, his 30th and 31st competitive strikes of the season, fired an injury-hit Bayern Munich to a 3-1 win at Augsburg. Lewandowski’s importance could be any less understated – the Polish international has scored eight of Bayern’s 10 goals since the winter break. His strike on 14 minutes took the sting out of a potentially dangerous encounter at Bavarian neighbours Augsburg, before he and Thomas Müller combined once again to complete the win.

Leading a nip-and-tuck battle with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to lead the scorers chart, Lewandowski is Bayern’s talisman. Without him, the story could be so much different considering all that is surrounding the club in recent months. An outstanding striker, a consummate professional and team leader, Lewandowski is the player that makes Bayern tick. His future, however, is unclear with speculation about a money-spinning move to Real Madrid. As a new coaching tenure gets underway this summer, and dominates headlines in Germany, losing their prized asset will be a serious blow to Bayern’s credentials.

The German champions, on course for a fourth consecutive title, are without almost all defensive options ahead of the Last 16 encounter with Juventus in the Champions League. Jerome Boateng, the cornerstone of the side, is out for three months, while Friday’s news that Holger Badstuber sustained a broken leg in training came as a shattering to Guardiola’s team. 

Before kickoff, Bayern’s starting line-up –€“ which included Juan Bernat and Arturo Vidal –€“ wore t-shirts as a show of support for the Bayern center-back. The club’s fans, in particular, have given continued support to Badstuber who has suffered a horrendous range of injuries which has blighted a promising career. 

BUNDESLIGA RESULTS

Guardiola’s side, shaped up as a 4-1-5, was also without Xabi Alonso who was sent off in the 0-0 draw at Bayer Leverkusen last weekend. Joshua Kimmich — who has yet to suffer defeat as a Bayern player –€“ continued at the heart of defense with David Alaba alongside him and Bernat at left-back. Despite an injury-ravaged backline, Guardiola’s champions looked in little doubt, dominating the ball with such assurance.

Bayern’s moment of brilliance to unlock the door was courtesy of Lewandowski once again after 14 minutes. Thomas Müller picked him out with a clever ball, yet Bayern’s top scorer had plenty of work to do on the edge of the box. His sharp turn and pivot was exceptional before drilling the ball with precision into the corner. 

Augsburg only managed one half-decent attack on Bayern’s makeshift defense –€“ and it came from a corner kick. South Korean defender Jeong-Ho Hong rose highest and headed narrowly wide from Piotr Trochowski’s corner kick. Given Markus Weinzierl is the only coach to beat Guardiola more than once in the league, the relative lack of ambition from his side was galling.

Vidal and Thiago both had efforts from in-and-around the edge of the box, but neither hit the target. Douglas Costa’s free-kick on the half-time whistle was threatening, although Marwin Hitz stood firm. Hitz was called into action as soon as the game resumed when Arjen Robben slalomed inside and bent his shot high-and-wide of the goal. 

The German champions landed the sucker punch as Augsburg’s defense became stretched after the break. Thiago’s pass to slice open the home side was exquisite and Lewandowski tucked home his 21st of the season in the Bundesliga –€“ he is now the outright top scorer ahead of Borussia Dortmund’s Aubameyang. Regardless of the doubts, Lewandowski continues to deliver and keep Bayern on track for the treble, although the overarching sense of doubt lingers over Guardiola’s team ahead of the Juventus clash in two week’s time. Carlo Ancelotti’s brief stop-over in Munich was yet another side issue for Guardiola to deal with this week, but his men brushed off non-football talk impressively.

Lewandowski’s hat-trick was inches away in the last quarter of an hour. Müller did brilliantly on the wing, but his cross evaded the Pole. Müller bundled home on 77 minutes to secure the points — the 36th goal in the Bundesliga this season as a result of either the German or Lewandowski. Raul Bobadilla finished superbly with four minutes left to score his first goal since the win in Belgrade which secured Augsburg’s place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League.

And that is what awaits Augsburg on Thursday –€“ an unprecedented milestone in the club’s history. A decade ago, Augsburg was competing against amateur sides in front of around 2-or-3,000 fans. This week, Jürgen Klopp and five-time European Cup winners Liverpool will come calling to a sold-out SGL Arena. Whether the distraction of European football will cost the club in the league remains to be seen – the Bavarians are fifth-from-bottom and have just one point between them and the relegation play-off spot.