With three new players in the starting line-up (Aránguiz, Paulinho and Alario in place of Demirbay, Adli and Azmoun), the Werkself gradually started to dominate the ball and control the game after a couple of minutes. The first noteworthy instant happened after 15 minutes for the visitors: Goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow had to be substituted due to injury and he was replaced by the 20-year-old Marcel Lotka (see below).
That was followed by a long period of little action before the spectacular closing stages of the first half starting with the opening goal from Lucas Alario (34'). Karim Bellarabi doubled the lead six minutes later but Hertha's Vladimir Darida pulled a goal back before half-time to make it 2-1 on 42 minutes. HERE is the match report…
Robert Andrich hit the nail on the head after the final whistle: "It was a hard-earned victory," said the 27 year-old succinctly before adding: "Hertha tried to defend with ten men. It wasn't easy and we needed to be patient." The match represents another important step forwards and the team is on the right track. The midfield enforcer rounded off by saying: "It's a dream for every player and also for all of us to play in the Champions League."
The captain Lukas Hradecky added: "We are happy to pick up the three points today. An important win – also in view of the other results this afternoon." The Finland international was referring to the defeats for the chasing TSG Hoffenheim (2-1 against VfL Bochum) and SC Freiburg (4-1 against Bayern Munich).
This encounter on matchday 28 turned into a very special game for one Hertha player: Marcel Lotka, a youth player at Bayer 04 from 2017 to 2020, came on as the substitute goalkeeper after 15 minutes. The number one shot-stopper Alexander Schwolow was unable to carry on due to a muscle injury. After the final whistle, the 20-year-old swapped shirts with the Werkself skipper Lukas Hradecky in the basement of the BayArena.
20-goal Patrik Schick was in the Werkself squad against Hertha Berlin the first time since the 3-2 defeat at Mainz 05 in the middle of February. The Czech Republic centre forward brought on after 65 minutes, did his job well and helped his teammates to secure the victory. One of the match winners in the attack on the afternoon was again Moussa Diaby. The France international set up both Leverkusen goals and he has now clocked up twelve goals and ten assists in 25 Bundesliga games.
Hertha's head coach Felix Magath spoke shortly after the final whistle saying the Werkself were "the better team on the pitch." Leverkusen's superiority is confirmed in all the match stats: Possession was at almost 70%, challenges won at 52%. The Black and Reds also had a big lead in pass completion (85% to 64%) as well as with shots on goal (19 to 7).
The Rheinische Post described Alario's goal as follows: "The striker took a couple of steps towards the ball, received it with his back to goal and skilfully controlled it before shooting into the bottom left corner on the turn (34'). It couldn't be much better." According to the RP, Alario's goal is a candidate for the Goal of the Month. He was awarded a high mark of two as were Robert Andrich, Charles Aránguiz, Karim Bellarabi and Moussa Diaby. The latter was named "one of the match winners" thanks to his two assists. And the Bild am Sonntag newspaper also awards Alario, Andrich, Bellarabi and Diaby a mark of two. Gerardo Seoane with his mark of 2.75 is amongst the top coaches in the league behind Bayern Munich's Julian Nagelsmann (2.46) and Freiburg’s Christian Streich (2.61).
The Werkself are next in action with an away trip to Castroper Straße: The opponents on Sunday 10 April (kick-off: 15.30 CEST) are VfL Bochum, promoted to the top-flight this season. That is followed by a top clash at home against RB Leipzig on Sunday 17 April with the kick off at the BayArena at 19.30 CEST. The last 04 opponents for Bayer 04 in the current Bundesliga campaign are SpVgg Greuther Fürth, Eintracht Frankfurt, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and SC Freiburg on the final matchday.
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