“It was a good team performance by us,” said skipper Kevin Volland after the final whistle. “We had to battle hard in the first half but we didn’t let Augsburg get into the game and then we wrapped it up in the second half.” Central defender Sven Bender talked of “feeling good at winning here.” The team achieved what they set out to do. “We were patient in our build-up play and waited until our chances came,” said Bender.
The Werkself had something to celebrate before kick-off: Daley Sinkgraven made his debut in the starting line-up. The new signing from Ajax played on the left of a back three. Mitchell Weiser made his first start of the season on the right flank. Wendell and Lars Bender had to make way for the two debutants. Joel Pohjanpalo joined them on the bench. ‘Danger’ was back in the squad for the first time after an 18-month lay-off due to injury - great news for all fans and especially for Joel.
“Augsburg will be very compact at the back,” predicted Peter Bosz ahead of the game - and he proved to be right. The defence including Tin Jedvaj, on loan from Bayer 04, sat deep and the hosts allowed Leverkusen much of the possession in the hope of attacking on the break. FCA coach Martin Schmidt fielded two left backs in Philipp Max and Iago to provide enough strength in challenges. No wonder that the Werkself first attacked their own left flank with Kevin Volland having the first shot on five minutes. Augsburg proved to be tough opponents allowing the Peter Bosz team little time and space to impose their superiority. The result: 86 per cent possession for Bayer 04 in the opening stages but there was no real threat to the Augsburg goal in the first 30 minutes. Lukas Hradecky had virtually nothing to do in the whole of the first half as the action was far away from his net.
Lucas Alario showed how to put the well-organised Augsburg team on the back foot in a flash: A great lob from him found the foot of Kevin Volland but the Augsburg keeper Tomas Koubek was alert (31’) and seconds later the Czech goalkeeper saved a shot from the busy Alario (32’). The Werkself upped the pressure and then took the lead. Nadiem Amiri received the ball from a cleared corner and his cross into the box was headed into his own net by Augsburg’s Florian Niederlechner as he beat Sven Bender to the ball - 1-0 to Bayer 04 (34’). Bender collided with foot of Rani Khedira in the move and had to receive treatment from the medics. “I don’t know anything about the goal,” admitted the central defender after the game. As usual, the Bayer 04 number five proved to be tough and soon returned to the fray - the opener probably helped soothe the pain.
Sven Bender was back on the pitch for the restart. He was soon called into action with his fellow defenders as debutant Sinkgraven blocked a shot from Khedira (46’). Bayer 04 remained undaunted as they moved the ball much better than in the first half. A deflected shot from Volland hit the side netting (51’), Felix Uduokhai blocked a flying header from Kai Havertz at the end of a good move by the Black and Reds (57’), and a free kick from Volland from a promising position was saved by Koubek (64’). The Werkself defence was untroubled up to this point with Julian Baumgartlinger, Alexander Dragovic and Co. doing an excellent job and Hradecky had a quiet afternoon up to just before five o’clock. The Finland keeper then had to make an outstanding flying save to deny substitute Julian Schieber (71’).
Bayer 04 had also made changes by this point with Paulinho replacing Alario and Wendell coming on for Sinkgraven who made a promising Bundesliga debut before going off with a knock. Augsburg were forced to press forward - and the Werkself were clinical in exploiting the space available: In a counter-attack, Amiri played a diagonal ball that luckily came of Havertz’ back to Volland, now playing as a lone striker, and he lobbed the ball into the net from 30 yards out with his ‘weak’ right foot leaving Koubek stranded to put Bayer 04 2-0 up on 76 minutes. The FCA resistance was broken and the Werkself were able to move the ball at will: A quick and accurate move involving Amiri, Baumgartlinger, Volland and Amiri once again ended up with Havertz effortlessly converting from close range to make it 3-0 (84’) - a fine ending for the fourth win in the sixth game of the season.
Bayer 04 are back in action on Tuesday: In the Champions League. The Werkself are away to Italian serial champions Juventus with their superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. “Those are games you become a footballer for,” said Sven Bender after the game.
FC Augsburg: Koubek - Lichtsteiner, Jedvaj, Uduokhai, Max (Moravek 80') - Khedira, Oxford - Vargas, Iago - Finnbogason (Schieber 67'), Niederlechner (Cordova 87')
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Dragovic (Tah 83'), S. Bender, Sinkgraven (Wendell 73') – Baumgartlinger, Aránguiz – Weiser, Havertz, Amiri, Volland – Alario (Paulinho 66')
Goals: 0-1 Niederlechner (o.g. 34'), 0-2 Volland (76'), 0-3 Havertz (84')
Referee: Robert Kampka (Mainz)
Booked: Max, Lichtsteiner, Vargas, Schieber
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