Birthday boy Gerardo Seoane opted for a back three for the first time as Werkself boss as Piero Hincapie slotted in as a third central defender. Kerem Demirbay came into the midfield in place of new father Robert Andrich, while Alario returned from injury up top. Florian Wirtz also came into the starting XI. Moussa Diaby served a suspension for five yellow cards, while Nadiem Amiri and Paulinho (both bench) were the other players to drop out from Wednesday’s 2-1 DFB Cup defeat to Karlsruhe.
The first chances fell to the visitors, who looked motivated in their first game under new coach Florian Kohfeldt. Lukas Hradecky was called into action against Ridle Baku, Nmecha and Aster Vranckx inside the opening ten minutes. But Bayer 04 started to take on the upper hand after a quarter of an hour in a tactical match-up and carved out their first chance for Amine Adli after a rapid counter-attack.
Leverkusen were seeing far more of the ball but Wolfsburg were showing their bite. Even after the whistle had gone, Renato Steffen went in hard on Wirtz, leading to a mass confrontation. There was little in terms of attacking from the visitors, but they also allowed very little at the other end despite the Werkself’s best efforts. There was a shot from range by Hincapie, while Adli came close to getting on the end of a Mitchel Bakker cross just before the break. But there were almost no clear-cut chances in the first 45 minutes.
Bayer 04 had controlled the play but were hit twice early into the second half. Half-time substitute Dodi Lukebakio dribbled down the left into the box. His ball in was deflected off Hincapie and landed at the feet of Nmecha, who put away just three minutes after the restart. Things got worse for the Werkself after another cross from another substitute. Nmecha’s diving header from Paulo Otavio’s ball was thwarted by great reactions from Hradecky. Yannick Gerhardt’s rebound was blocked by Demirbay, but it only fell to Arnold to fire home under the crossbar at the third attempt on 52 minutes. Wolfsburg were now on top and Hradecky had to come to the rescue against Nmecha again before John Brooks headed a free-kick over.
The Werkself had to gather themselves and Seoane sent on Paulinho for Hincapie to revert back to the usual 4-2-3-1. Bayer 04 looked more solid but lacked precision in the final third as the Wolves sat back to defend the lead. However, Leverkusen pushed on in a bid to avoid defeat. Demirbay fired a long-range effort just wide, Paulinho just failed to control a ball in front of goal from substitute Amiri, and a Demirbay free-kick from a promising position was deflected behind by the Wolfsburg wall.
Leverkusen didn’t stop going forward even in added time, which was when the two best chances came. Alario first headed a cross from Daley Sinkgraven just over the bar in the 93rd minute. The Argentine then earned a penalty after Lacroix took him down and was sent off as last man. The Werkself striker got up to take himself with the last kick of the game, but was denied by Koen Casteels.
The result means it’s five competitive games without a win for Bayer 04. The next chance to end that run comes on Thursday, 4 November when they host Real Betis in a crucial game at the top of Europa League Group G at the BayArena (kick-off at 21:00 CET). The next Bundesliga fixture is away at Hertha Berlin on Sunday, 7 November at 15:30.
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Tah, Tapsoba, Hincapie (Paulinho 54') – Frimpong, Palacios (Andrich 96'), Demirbay, Bakker (Sinkgraven 82') – Adli (Amiri 96'), Wirtz – Alario
Wolfsburg: Casteels - Baku (F. Nmecha 80'), Lacroix, Brooks, Gerhardt (Mbabu 69') – Guilavogui, Arnold - Philipp (Lukebakio 46'), Vranckx, Steffen (Otavio 46') - L. Nmecha (Ginczek 90'+2)
Goals: 0-1 L. Nmecha (48'), 0-2 Arnold (51')
Yellow cards: Tah, Alario, Wirtz - Brooks, Steffen
Red card: Lacroix (90'+6)
Referee: Deniz Aytekin
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