"It was a really important win for us. You could see the team didn't play with much confidence due to the previous three defeats. But they remained patient and deserved to win. The crucial thing was that we kept a clean sheet again," said sporting director Simon Rolfes.
In addition to the two long-term and absentees Karim Bellarabi (thigh) and Joel Pohjanpalo (ankle), both sidelined for the rest of the season, Bayer 04 again had to replace Lars Bender. The skipper did return to full training this week after recovering from a thigh injury but did not make the squad. Head coach Peter Bosz opted for the same starting eleven from the home game against RB Leipzig. Former Leverkusen player Gonzalo Castro recovered from a groin injury to start for VfB. Kai Havertz made his 100th appearance for Bayer 04.
The position ahead of the game at the Mercedes-Benz Arena was clear: The Werkself urgently needed to pick up three points after three defeats in succession to make up ground and keep in the race for a European finish. The visitors accordingly played with focus and had the upper hand against a Stuttgart side that sat back and looked to play on the break. VfB had the first chance of the game: A free kick from Daniel Didavi was headed away for a corner by Wendell on seven minutes. Leon Bailey had the first chance for the Werkself but the Jamaican was unable to control a long ball from Jonathan Tah (14'). Bayer 04 were dominant but lacked the necessary tempo and quick passing. A shot from Alexander Esswein from the right towards the near post was turned away for a corner by Lukas Hradecky (16'). Stuttgart were clearly intent on making up for the lack of quality with aggressive challenges.
Havertz put Julian Brandt through on goal but his shot from a tight angle hit the side netting (27'). It was a tough battle in the first half hour with little entertainment value for the fans. Then a promising counter-attack for Bayer 04 was frustrated by the intervention of Didavi (36'). A Volland shot was too weak and Ron-Robert Zieler had no problem making the save (30'). Havertz then missed the target by a good 18 inches (39'). The best chance of the game so far came immediately before the half-time break: Zieler produced a fantastic reflex save (45+ 1') to turn a volley from Volland from close range over the bar – that could have been the opener. The Werkself were clearly on top at the end of the first half.
Bayer 04 continued where they left off after the restart: Havertz crossed from the right but Brandt failed to connect properly with an attempted volley (50'). Then Volland was centre stage again: His header from a cross by Charles Aránguiz flew wide of the target (52'). The Black and Reds clearly had more chances by this point. Then the lead finally came: Volland was brought down on the edge of the box by Castro and referee Tobias Stieler immediately pointed to the spot. Havertz grabbed the ball and coolly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner to make it 1-0 on 64 minutes – his thirteenth goal of the season.
After that Zieler again won out against Volland (73'). Lucas Alario replaced Bailey five minutes later. At the other end Hradecky did not have any problem saving a shot from Ozan Kabak (80'). A header from Alario was turned over the bar by the alert Zieler (84'). There were three added minutes and a red card for the hosts: Santiago Ascacibar was sent off for spitting at Havertz (90').
Bayer 04 are at home to FC Nürnberg on matchday 30 on Saturday 20 April. The kick-off at the BayArena is at 15.30 CET.
VfB Stuttgart: Zieler – Kabak, Pavard, Kempf – Beck, Ascacibar, Castro, Zuber (Gomez 82') – Esswein, Didavi (Thommy 68') – Gonzalez (Donis 70')
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Weiser, Tah, S. Bender, Wendell – Aránguiz, Baumgartlinger, Brandt – Havertz, Volland, Bailey (Alario 78')
Goals: 0-1 Havertz (64' pen.)
Referee: Tobias Stieler (Hamburg)
Sent off: Ascacibar (90’)
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
Bayer 04 has modernised its media working area in the stands at the BayArena and equipped it with new, multifunctional monitors. The 50 screens will be used for the first time for the fixture against Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 13 in the Bundesliga next Sunday, 3 December (kick-off: 17:30 CET) and offer the media representatives working at the BayArena on matchday numerous possibilities.Show more
Bayer 04 have little time to recover from their 2-0 win away at Häcken in the UEFA Europe League, ensuring progress to the round of 16, before their next challenge up against Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Sunday (17:30 CET). At his pre-match press conference on Friday morning, head coach Xabi Alonso spoke about BVB and gave a warning about not losing focus.Show more
Spirits are high at Borussia Dortmund following their impressive display and result away at AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday. On Sunday (17:30 CET), they want to keep an impressive week going with another scalp in Leverkusen. Here’s the lowdown on our next opponents.Show more