In addition to the long-term absentees Joel Pohjanpalo and Panos Retsos, who both returned to the training ground for the first time this week after several months on the sidelines, Peter Bosz had to manage without Lars Bender and Karim Bellarabi. In addition, Lucas Alario dropped out late on due to a knee problem. Sam Schreck came into the squad in his place. The Bayer 04 head coach fielded the same starting eleven against Freiburg that lined up for the 3-2 defeat at Borussia Dortmund last week.
Bosz expected a "very interesting" challenge against Freiburg who were unbeaten in four games. Also because it was a game between "two teams with very different ways of playing." As Bayer 04 and SCF are the top two teams in the league in terms of ground covered in games, it was reasonable to expect an intense encounter.
A lot of Bayer 04 fans were wearing costume at the BayArena on carnival Saturday – and they were hoping the carnival 'curse' would finally come to an end. In the last five home games on carnival weekends, the Werkself had suffered four defeats and only one draw
And the Bosz team were the first out of the blocks. Kevin Volland was just beaten to a whipped-in cross from Leon Bailey by Dominique Heintz on three minutes. But the ball was in the back of the net a minute later: Freiburg's Lukas Kübler did head the ball away from the immediate danger zone from a Bailey corner but only as far as the feet of Charles Aránguiz. The Chilean did not hesitate as he fired in a volley from 20 yards out - the ball flew into the opposition net with a slight deflection to make it 1-0 for the hosts (4').That was the first goal of the season for Aránguiz. It was quickly followed by the next chance when Mitchell Weiser shot after good work by Volland but his effort went a yard wide of the target (6'). The Werkself were moving the ball well with the usual high tempo and they clearly dominated the game in the opening stages. The next chance fell to Tin Jedvaj but the low drive from the Croat from distance went inches wide of the left-hand post (18').
Bosz was forced to make his first change because Sven Bender suffered a cut to his head in a collision with Kübler. His position in central defence was taken by Aleksandar Dragovic (22'). That did not affect the dominance of the hosts at all. Volland put the ball over the bar from close range (26'), Havertz just missed getting onto a long ball in the middle of the box (31'). The visitors from Freiburg failed to respond and scarcely found their way up the field into a shooting position. The Bayer 04 keeper Lukas Hradecky did not have to make a single save.
The tempo dropped off towards the end of the first half with most of the action in midfield. Then a corner from Aránguiz was headed on by Havertz and Volland tried an overhead kick but the ball flew just over the bar (42'). The Werkself took a deserved 1-0 lead into the half-time break with 75 per cent possession in the first 45 minutes.
Freiburg had the first good move of the second half: A hard shot from Janik Haberer tested Hradecky for the first time as the Finn was forced to stretch to make an impressive save on 50 minutes. Then an exciting moment at the other end: Aránguiz fell to the ground in the box after contact with Philipp Lienhart and the referee Guido Winkmann pointed to the spot but he reversed his decision after consulting VAR (55').
The Werkself continued to control proceedings and tried to stretch the game out to find gaps in the Freiburg defence. Most problems were produced by long-range efforts. First a deflected shot from Julian Brandt went just wide of the right-hand post (63 '), Then the goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow was called into action to keep out a delightful Volland curler and prevent the hosts taking a 2-0 lead (64').
At the other end, substitute Florian Niederlechner tested Hradecky with a shot from the left of the goal (68'). But the Black and Reds continued to dominate the game and finally penetrated the Freiburg defence once again: Havertz broke down the right at speed and fed the ball to Brandt whose lob from a tight angle went over Schwolow for Volland and Bailey to force the ball over the line to make it 2-0 on 73 minutes. As Bailey was the last to touch the ball, the goal was credited to the Jamaican. That settled the result. Christian Günter again tested Hradecky with a clipped left-foot shot just before the end of the game (88'), but the Werkself ran down the clock to seal victory and move up to the table to sixth in the table for the time being at least.
Kevin Volland said after the game: "Today we controlled the game for 90 minutes and we scored the second goal of the right moment. We had considerably more possession. There's nothing to moan about today." Julian Brandt said: "We earned the victory today. It wasn't outstanding but the win was deserved."
The Werkself are on the road in the Bundesliga next weekend with an away game at Hannover 96. The match is on Sunday, 10 March at 18.00 CET.
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Weiser, Tah, S. Bender (Dragovic 22'), Jedvaj – Aránguiz, Havertz, Baumgartlinger, - Havertz (Kohr 85'), Volland, Bailey (Paulinho 87')
SC Freiburg: Schwolow - Kübler, Lienhart, Heintz, Günter - Frantz (Gondorf 74'), Abrashi (Höler 81') - Haberer, Grifo - Waldschmidt (Niederlechner 68') - Petersen
Goals: 1-0 Aránguiz (4'), 2-0 Bailey (73')
Referee: Guido Winkmann (Kerken)
Monster Energy has been a partner in the Sponsors Club at Bayer 04 Leverkusen since the start of the 2023/24 season. Monster Energy has shown their products at Werkself home games on the LED advertising hoardings at the BayArena. Monster Energy activated the next stage of the partnership with the current Bundesliga league leaders for Bayer 04’s home game against Union Berlin in the middle of November. Monster Energy will continue to present themselves as a reliable and ambitious partner to Leverkusen fans through similar promotional events as at the game against Union Berlin.Show more
Bayer 04 involvement with the ‘Kältegang Leverkusen’ project continues this winter. The current Bundesliga league leaders and their fans again presented financial and in-kind donations to the homeless charity at home game against Borussia Dortmund (1-1).Show more
Bundesliga leaders Bayer 04 host Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 13 today, Sunday 3 December (17:30 CET), with a capacity crowd expected at the BayArena. Here’s all the latest information ahead of the clash with BVB.Show more
Bayer 04 welcomed 14 media representatives from Africa on Friday, 1 December. The trip for journalists from the likes of Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mozambique, Togo, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Togo was organised by the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) with the goal of establishing and promoting Africa as a new target market for the Bundesliga.Show more