Both teams started the game with a focus on defence with Union Berlin remaining compact in their own half as the game progressed. The Werkself had more possession and endeavoured to get on the front foot but rarely broke through to the FCU goal in an uneventful first half – but that changed after half-time. Robert Andrich gave the hosts the lead from the first corner of the game and that opened the floodgates: First, Moussa Diaby netted a brace within two minutes to make it 3-0 (56', 58') and then Adam Hlozek (68') and Mitchel Bakker (76') sealed an emphatic 5-0 win in front of a full house at the BayArena with some at times impressive passing football. HERE is the match report.
At the post-match press conference, Xabi Alonso analysed the first 45 minutes as follows: "The first half was very tight, both sides didn't have many chances and it wasn't easy to attack. Union are at the top of the table for a reason." And the Spanish coach also summed up the second half "We wanted to remain focused after half-time. We had more space, our players were able to make long runs and the finishing was very good. We are very happy today." Talking about the forthcoming challenges, Alonso said: We want to carry on in exactly the same way. We need this mentality to attack, score goals and remain hungry."
Goalscorer Robert Andrich was also relieved talking to Werkself TV: "We are happy. It was a tough game in the first half, we couldn’t make the breakthrough up front but we didn't give anything away. Therefore, it was totally important to remain clear and not lose our heads. We succeeded in doing that." Nadiem Amiri turned his attention to the forthcoming derby at FC Köln: "Looking at the scoreboard makes me happy but not looking at the table. So we can enjoy today but tomorrow it's all about preparing for the most important game of the year."
Xabi Alonso had to manage without Patrik Schick against the Irons due to a groin problem. The same applied to Charles Aránguiz (calf), Paulinho (illness), Sardar Azmoun (rehab) and Florian Wirtz. Alonso also rotated making four changes to the line-up for the 0-0 home draw against Club Brugge in the Champions League. All the goalscorers in the match - Andrich, Bakker, Diaby and Hlozek - started the game.
And there was also good news away from the pitch: The presentation of the 2022 Bayer 04 Volunteering Award took place at half-time. There were three winners this year: SV Schlebusch and Vorwärts Spoho from the Middle Rhine Football Association (FVM) and DJK Rheinkraft Neuss from the Lower Rhine Football Association (FVN). The clubs all received a prize in the sum of €5,000.
A look at the numbers in the game also showed the superiority of the Black and Reds: Leverkusen had the upper hand in terms of possession (58%). The Black and Reds also won the majority (55%) of challenges. The Werkself pass completion rate was 84% with the Irons having 80%. The Werkself had eleven shots on goal – FCU had seven.
The Rheinische Post headline reads "Bayer play like a different team", the Süddeutsche Zeitung chose the metaphor of the "ketchup bottle principle", and the Kölnische Rundschau describes the events in the second half as a "45-minute Bayer gala performance." The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger describes the match as follows: "It was astonishing on matchday 13: After a difficult to explain period of play, Bayer 04 swept aside the previous league leaders FC Union with a 5-0 win and, thanks to impressive efficiency in the second half, gave themselves some breathing space."
The Werkself are away to FC Köln in the derby on Wednesday 9 November. The match at the Rheinenergie Stadium kicks off at 18.30 CET. The team from Cologne lost 2-0 to SC Freiburg at the weekend and are now twelfth in the table. Due to the World Cup, that will be followed by the final Bundesliga matchday of the calendar year. VfB Stuttgart visit the BayArena on Saturday 12 November. The match kicks off at 15.30 CET.
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