Everything was going to plan for Bayer 04 for half an hour. Another early goal from Robert Andrich (2’) was followed by a second scored by Patrik Schick after great work from Florian Wirtz to put the Werkself 2-0 up (19') and they appeared to be in full control. The sending off of Andrich after the intervention of VAR (31') changed the course of the game. Stuttgart were boosted by having the extra man and promptly pulled a goal back through Orel Mangala (38'). Despite being a man down and with heavy legs after Thursday's Europa League match, Bayer 04 stood firm to resist the pressure from VfB Stuttgart and Wirtz settled matters in the middle of the second half (70'). A 3-1 away win and three points with ten men. HERE is the match report.
Coach Gerardo Seoane paid his team a "big compliment" after the game, "for this incredible solidarity with a man down. We had some difficult moments after the red card and there was a lot to learn in the following 60 minutes. We have to be compact and defend together. That's not what we're used to but we did it very well. And the offensive players also defended very well."
The captain Lukas Hradecky was also "very proud" of his team but he also returned the praise shown by the coach: "The coach changed things around a bit in the second half and the back five helped us to defend against the Stuttgart attacks." But the team spirit that came after the red card was also decisive: "Perhaps, we pulled a bit closer together in the dressing room and everybody helped each other. That has to be our trademark. We have the quality on the pitch and we will be able to keep showing that and then we’ll be difficult to beat." Central defender Jonathan Tah declared: We did incredibly well in the second half with ten men."
Lukas Hradecky celebrated a milestone last weekend in the 4-3 defeat to Borussia Dortmund – and now comes the next one. A Bundesliga record to boot. After making his 200th Bundesliga appearance against BVB, our captain has now played 100 Bundesliga games in a Werkself shirt. After 101 appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt, the shot stopper has now reached at milestone with a second club – the first foreign keeper to do that in the history of the Bundesliga.
Robert Andrich had a mixed day. His dismissal on the half-hour mark crucially changed the dynamic of the game but he had something to celebrate before that: The midfielder scored his first goal for Bayer 04 with a fine header in his second outing for the Werkself.
In contrast, Piero Hincapie enjoyed a fully successful debut. The defender came on at the beginning of the second half to replace the injured Patrik Schick thereby making his first appearance in the Bundesliga. There was no sign of nerves from the 19-year-old, Hincapie defended like an old hand and he played a big part in denying Stuttgart chances in spite of their extra man. Coach Gerardo Seoane was also thrilled: "The substitution worked really well."
Sometimes it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall in the dressing room. Because what Gerardo Seoane said to his team must have been something special. The opener scored by Robert Andrich on two minutes on matchday five was already the seventh goal of the season for the Werkself in the opening 15 minutes – an almost incredible stat and by far the best in the league.
Talking about the best in the league brings us to Florian Wirtz. On Sunday, our youngster netted his third goal of the season and provided his fourth assist – and that with just two starts. The 18-year-old has, on average, been involved in a goal every 30 minutes. Top numbers in the Bundesliga – even ahead of Haaland and Lewandowski.
"The Wirtz show goes on," is the headline in the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. The paper not only praises the goalscorer for making it 3-1 but also "Leverkusen's electrifying football" at the start. The Rheinische Post also highlights that. Bayer 04 "dominated the opening stages at VfB Stuttgart at will," reports the newspaper with the two early goals "the logical consequence of the good and focused start."
Otherwise, Florian Wirtz is very much at the centre of attention in the match reports. The BILD writes about an "Wirtz gala display" and points out some top stats in addition to his involvement in two of the goals: "He covered the most ground of all the players with a total of 10.49 kilometres and he had a pass completion rate of 89 per cent." The EXPRESS also raves about the 18-year-old Werkself youngster and reports: "Florian Wirtz confirms his absolute top form." The kicker names Wirtz the Man of the Match but also praises the Werkself performance with ten men and sums the game up as follows: "Bayer were only briefly under pressure but dominated in spite being a man down."
After an energy-sapping week with three close and intensive matches, the Werkself now have time to take a breather. Next Saturday, 25 September (kick-off: 15.30 CEST), FSV Mainz 05 are the visitors to the BayArena. The team from Rheinhessen are level on points with Bayer 04 after five games and they have made an impressive start to the season following on from an outstanding second half of last season. A bit of rest cannot go amiss.
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