With Sven Bender rested due to a thigh injury picked up in yesterday's training session, the U19 youngster Fabian Rüth came into the starting line-up against the Swiss side to play alongside Aleksandar Dragovic in the centre of defence. Winter signing Exequiel Palacios made his debut for Leverkusen and he impressed in central midfield in his first outing.
The top-flight Swiss team were on the front foot from the start, pressed early and closed down space for the Werkself. After a goal from Ermedin Demirovic was ruled offside on three minutes, the St. Gallen striker netted the opener soon after that: He beat the reserve keeper Ramazan Özcan from a tight angle to make it 1-0 for the Swiss. It did not take long for the Werkself to reply – the FCSG keeper Shamal George first kept out Kerem Demirbay. Leon Bailey went one better on 29 minutes: A fine pass from Lucas Alario was laid off into the box by Joel Pohjanpalo and Bailey scored with a backheel on the turn – for the deserved equaliser at 1-1.
Just three minutes later, St. Gallen exploited the Werkself losing possession in midfield. Again it was Demirovic who found the back of the net with a long-range effort putting the team currently lying third in the Swiss League 2-1 up (32'). There was no change the scoreline before half-time
Niklas Lomb replaced Özcan in goal for the second 45, St. Gallen shuffled their pack with ten changes. The Peter Bosz team succeeded going forward and created several good chances. Pohjanpalo rewarded the attacking efforts of the Black and Reds on 58 minutes: A corner from Demirbay saw 'Danger' head the ball against the post before he reacted instantly to put the rebound in the back of the net. Alario then made it 3-2 eleven minutes later when he converted a precise pass from Mitchell Weiser.
The Werkself remained on top but were unable to prevent one or two counter-attacks from the Swiss side. That gave Lomb chance to show what he could do: After losing the ball going forwards, the number 36 pulled off a reaction save to deny former Bundesliga player Lucas Görtler and later he was on his toes to keep out a shot from Cedric Itten. The match ended in the first win in the New Year for the Werkself – one week ahead of the first game of the second half of the season at SC Paderborn – a successful end to the winter training camp in La Manga.
"They weren't friendlies today. There were more of a test as you could see. Even if we always want to win, results are not the most important thing in these games. It's important that nearly everybody gets 90 minutes on the pitch as that really brings the team on," said Peter Bosz after the two matches. "They were different opponents today. I saw some good things in both games but also things we need to do better. For example, in terms of covering back as we gave away goals too easily."
Bayer 04: Özcan (Lomb 46’) – Weiser (Gädicke 79’), Rüth, Dragovic, Wendell – Demirbay, Palacios – Bailey, Azhil, Pohjanpalo (Stanilewicz 69’) – Alario
FC St. Gallen: George – Kräuchi (Hefti 46’), Stergiou (Alves 46’), Fazliji (Ajeti 46’), Muheim (Rüfli 46’) – Quintilla (Campos 71’) – Staubli (Solimando 46’), Guillemenot (Ribeiro), Ruiz (Görtler 46’) – Demirovic (Bakayoko 46’), Babic (Itten 46’)
Goals: 01 Demirovic (12’), 1-1 Bailey (29’), 1-2 Demirovic (32’), 2-2 Pohjanpalo (59’), 3-2 Alario (69’)
Booked: Palacios, Alario / Quintilla
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