It came as no surprise that Kevin Volland was upset after the final whistle: “We didn’t have enough structure to our play. All in all, that was no good at all. We had hardly any attacking moves, it only improved a bit towards the end,” the striker said.
Heiko Herrlich made five changes to the team that started against FC Zürich in the Europa League. Jonathan Tah, Sven and Lars Bender, Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland took over from Aleksandar Dragovic, Dominik Kohr, Julian Baumgartlinger, Leon Bailey and Lucas Alario. Karim Bellarabi did not make it into the squad due to a knock, Charles Aránguiz deputising for him in the starting XI, as had been the case against the Swiss side. Herrlich fielded a back three again, flexibly flanked by full-backs Mitchell Weiser and Wendell.
Leipzig were unbeaten in nine league matches since travelling to Dortmund on Matchday 1 back in August, so Leverkusen knew the game in the east of Germany would be a tough hurdle. “Our play when we’re not in possession will be decisive. We also have to be solid in defence after losing the ball,” the Bayer 04 coach said shortly before kick-off. Quick switches of play were required too. Kai Havertz for example initiated a promising counter-attack in midfield, but Demme resorted to a tactical foul to stop him (6’) – and should arguably have seen a yellow card.
Lukas Hradecky tipped a Werner effort over the bar (11’) and comfortably saved a Konaté header following a corner (12’). Leipzig almost put through their own goal shortly afterwards, when Ilsanker, put under pressure by Volland, flicked the ball inches wide of the post following a dangerous Brandt corner (13’). Leipzig sought to dominate possession, with the Werkself looking for chances on the break. The hosts took the lead when Demme’s strong pass found Poulsen, who had only Hradecky to beat and looped the ball into the net (27’). The goal was initially ruled out for offside but counted after consultation with the VAR. Kevin Kampl soon smashed the ball into the side-netting following a Werner cross from a tight angle (35’), Jedvaj blocking with a tackle.
Kai Havertz demonstrated how Bayer might level the scores when he lobbed the ball over Ilsanker, but his powerful left-footed effort flew just over the bar (36’), and the hosts were one up at half-time.
Leon Bailey came on for Jedvaj at half-time, the Werkself switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Regrouped Bayer 04 had significantly more impetus in attack now, but as expected it proved hard to create chances against the league’s best defence, although Aránguiz, who was industrious and very strong on the ball, worked tirelessly to control the centre of the park and spot gaps. The exhausted Chilean left the pitch after 66 minutes, Dominik Kohr taking over. Leverkusen were soon caught cold following a throw-in, coming off second-best in three one-on-ones and ending up as spectators when Klostermann doubled the lead by smashing the ball past Hradecky and into the far corner (68’).
Heiko Herrlich reacted and brought on Lucas Alario for Weiser in an effort to seize the momentum (72’). However, Werner soon had only Hradecky to beat, but the Finn prevented a third goal for Leipzig (75’). At the other end Gulacsi only just saved a strong Bailey free-kick (77’), and an Alario header flew inches wide of the post (78’). Leipzig’s keeper proved equal to a low and powerful Brandt effort (80’) as the Werkself pressed for a reply, but the next setback came soon: Dominik Kohr lost the ball in his own box, where Poulsen was on hand to round off his brace (85’), leaving Hradecky without a chance and sealing the final 3-0 scoreline. It was an evening to forget for Bayer 04.
The third international break this season means the Bundesliga teams now take a breather after a phase of midweek matches with seven fixtures in 23 days. Bayer 04 will be back in action on Friday 23 November at 20.30 CET, when they entertain VfB Stuttgart.
RB Leipzig: Gulacsi – Konaté, Ilsanker, Upamecano – Klostermann, Demme, Halstenberg – Sabitzer (Augustin 89'), Kampl (Bruma 89') – Werner (Laimer 82'), Poulsen
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Tah, S. Bender, Jedvaj (Bailey 46') – Weiser (Alario 72'), L. Bender, Aránguiz (Kohr 66'), Wendell – Brandt, Havertz, Volland
Goals: 1-0 Poulsen (27'), 2-0 Klostermann (68'), 3-0 Poulsen (85')
Referee: Martin Petersen (Stuttgart)
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