Werkself draw a blank at Leipzig

Bayer 04 lost 1-0 to RB Leipzig in the top match on Saturday night. The winner in a closely fought encounter was scored by Christopher Nkunku six minutes into the second half. The best chance for the Werkself equaliser fell to substitute Lucas Alario on 88 minutes but his shot from close range was saved by the Leipzig keeper Peter Gulasci.

"We needed a bit of time to get going but then did well. Unfortunately, we didn't play our counter-attacks very well and therefore were unable to pose enough of a threat. Leipzig were a bit lucky with their goal, which we didn't have the chance for Lucas Alario later on," said midfielder Kerem Demirbay.

Peter Bosz made three changes to his starting line-up compared with the last match against Wolfsburg: Lars Bender  (calf ), Nadiem Amiri (Covid-19 infection) and Lucas Alario (substitute) were replaced by Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Wendell and Kerem Demirbay. The Werkself head coach opted to play without a true striker with Alario joined on the bench by Patrik Schick against his former club. Bayer 04 were already missing a number of players for the Leipzig game in the shape of Santiago Arias, Paulinho, Julian Baumgartlinger, Sven Bender, Mitchell Weiser and Jeremie Frimpong. There were only five outfield players on the bench. Some good news: Exequiel Palacios returned to the squad for the first time following his lumbar injury.

Eintracht Frankfurt had gone above Bayer 04 in the afternoon with a 3-1 win against Hertha Berlin but there was still evident top match character to the clash between the best home team and the second best away side. Leon Bailey played as a false nine with Moussa Diaby on the right. Leipzig were very aggressive from the start and tried to press Leverkusen high up the pitch. A curler from Nkunku went just wide of the far post (4'). Marcel Sabitzer beat Lucas Hradecky with a low shot but was clearly offside from Angelino's cross (12'). The match quickly developed into an intensive encounter.

Wirtz just too late

The Werkself showed what they could do in attack after 15 minutes. A good ball from Diaby came in from the wing, Dayot Upamecano misjudged it but Wirtz just failed to connect in a one-on-one with Gulasci (16'). At the other end, a successful move for the hosts ended with Angelino hitting a shot wide of the near post (18'). Edmond Tapsoba just managed to get a foot to a cross from Tyler Adams that allowed Hradecky to easily pick up the ball (21'). Bayer 04 were very compact in defence but found it hard going getting forward with Bailey unable to beat the towering Upamecano in all of their foot races. Timothy Fosu-Mensah fitted in very well on the right side of defence and looked very comfortable on the ball and alert.

A Bailey lob into the goal over Gulasci from a long Demirbay pass was justifiably ruled out for offside (34'). The Werkself were increasingly coming into the game and action moved more into the Leipzig half. A cross from Wendell failed to find a taker (38'). Diaby was left limping after a blow to the knee from Nkunku (41'). Aránguiz was also given some rough treatment by Kevin Kampl who was fortunate not to be shown a card (43'). A shot from Lukas Klostermann was turned away for a corner by Tapsoba (45+1'). Shortly after that it was half-time with the goalless scoreline reflecting the balance of play in the first 45 minutes with few chances for either side.

Hradecky denies Olmo with great save

After the restart, neither side conceded anything in a very physical game. It was Leipzig who broke the deadlock: Nkunku was first blocked by Fosu-Mensah but at the second attempt he impressively beat three Leverkusen players and gave Hradecky no chance with a hard and well-placed shot into the far corner – 1-0 to RB Leipzig (51'). Peter Bosz responded by making two substitutions: Karim Bellarabi came on for Diaby and Patrik Schick replaced Daley Sinkgraven (59'). But it was the hosts who had the next chance. Alexander Sörloth hit the post. Hradecky impressively saved the follow-up shot from Dani Olmo by turning the ball round the post with his foot (61').

The Werkself went on to the front foot with Bellarabi hitting a shot wide from a promising position leaving Schick waiting in vain for a cross (64'). Bayer 04 worked hard and battled, Bailey successfully executed a sliding tackle on Angelino (66'). That was followed by a worrying incident: Tapsoba, once again impressive at the back, was left injured on the deck after winning a tackle and had to be treated (71'). The Burkina Faso international, voted the best central defender in the first half of the season by Kicker, was then able to carry on. A handball by Kampl in his own penalty area went unnoticed (74').


Chance for Alario to level

Leverkusen increased the pressure on Leipzig and were able to win possession in the opposition half. Peter Bosz played his last attacking card with Alario coming on for Fosu-Mensah after he picked up a knock (81'). The Werkself went all out to get on level terms with RB Leipzig. And that presented a great chance to equalise: Bellarabi picked out Alario but his shot to the near post was kept out with an impressive save from Gulasci – that could have been the leveller (88'). The Leipzig keeper also saved a low drive from the edge of the box from Tapsoba (90'). There was four minutes of added time. The hosts had the last chance with a free kick from Sabitzer coming back off the bar (90+4').

The Werkself are back in action on Tuesday, 2 February at 18.30 CET in the DFB Cup Round of 16 tie at Rot-Weiss Essen.

Match stats:

RB Leipzig: Gulacsi – Mukiele (Orban 80'), Upamecano, Klostermann – Adams, Kampl (Haidara 80’), Sabitzer, Angelino (Klostermann 90’) – Dani Olmo, Nkunku (Kluivert 70’) – Sörloth (Poulsen 70’)

Bayer 04: Hradecky – Fosu-Mensah (Alario 81'), Tah, Tapsoba, Wendell – Aránguiz, Demirbay, Sinkgraven (Schick 59') – Diaby (Bellarabi 59'), Wirtz – Bailey

Goals: 1-0 Nkunku (51’)

Referee: Harm Osmers (Hannover)

Booked: Kluivert, Haidara – Bellarabi, Bailey

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