Werkself coach Gerardo Seoane made five changes from the 3-2 defeat at Mainz for his opening line-up against Arminia Bielefeld. Mitchel Bakker, returning from suspension, plus Charles Aranguiz, Exequiel Palacios and Paulinho came into the team in place of Piero Hincapie, Kerem Demirbay, Amine Adli and Robert Andrich, who suffered a knock during the week. In addition, Lucas Alario came in for Patrik Schick (muscle injury), Karim Bellarabi was also sidelined (thigh). Julian Baumgartlinger (rehab after knee injury), Andrey Lunev (ankle) and Sardar Azmoun, who has been ruled out due to an infection, were also absent. The winter signing will definitely be an option for the next matchday when Bayer 04 visit Bayern Munich.
The Arminia Bielefeld coach Frank Kramer opted to field almost the same side as in last week's 1-0 win against Union Berlin. The only change was Nathan de Medina in place of Cédric Brunner who was ruled out through illness. The winter signing and former Germany international Gonzalo Castro, who played for Bayer 04 from 1999 to 2015, was on the bench. There were no tactical surprises: Both teams played a 4-2-3-1 formation albeit the visitors sat much deeper than the Werkself. Bielefeld were mostly very compact in front of their own penalty area and only challenged the Leverkusen players in their own half. As expected, it was a matter of being patient for the Black and Reds.
The match begin with a minute's silence due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Both teams wore black armbands as a mark of respect and Bayer 04 changed the programme of events for the day. That included no carnival music being played.
The Werkself took command from the first minute. Driven forward again and again by the lively Florian Wirtz, there were promising openings in front of Bielefeld goal. And the Werkself almost took the lead after 120 seconds: Wirtz made a solo run before putting Paulinho through on the Arminia goal. The Brazilian rounded the keeper Stephan Ortega but was forced wide allowing Ortega to hurry back and make the save.
Leverkusen stuck to the job at hand. Charles Aránguiz hit a shot from 22 yards out just over the bar (3') and a header from Alario from a Frimpong cross also went over the target (4'). Three minutes later, Wirtz again put Paulinho through but Ortega was able to save his effort from 16 yards out. Other good chances fell to Alario with a header from eleven yards out (14') and Paulinho who tried a back heel on 24 minutes from a Frimpong cross. However, Ortega was not caught out and was able to make the save.
At the other end, the only danger from the opposition in the first 30 minutes came with a scissor kick by Sebastian Vasiliadis but Lukas Hradecky was on the spot and able to catch the ball. The opening goal on the half-hour mark was more than deserved but it did require a VAR check. From a Frimpong cross, Paulinho played the ball against his own hand and it fell to Alario who fired it into the roof of the net from close range – 1-0. A quick VAR check determined that the handball by our number seven was not an infringement and the goal was awarded.
Bielefeld, changing to a 4-4-2 formation after going behind, were more adventurous. But a curler from 19 yards out from Fabian Kunze went just wide of Hradecky's goal. Alario had a good chance to double the lead on 39 minutes. His delicate lob from six yards out from Wirtz pass was headed clear for a corner by Ortega. In added time, Aránguiz saw an effort just miss the target to the right.
The Werkself took a deserved 1-0 lead into half-time. For the restart, the Arminia coach Frank Kramer brought on Bryan Lasme in place of Janni Serra up front and Gonzalo Castro for the holding midfielder Sebastian Vasiliadis. But Leverkusen stuck to their task. Paulinho put a delicate lob into the penalty area, Alario controlled the ball and beat Ortega (48'). But the strike was chalked off as the Argentinian was in an offside position. Two minutes later, came one of the few counter-attacks from Bielefeld. The new striker Lasme broke into the box from the right but Hradecky was again in the right position as he saved the effort to the near post (50').
Then came a double chance for the Werkself: First, a Bielefeld player was able to block a shot from Jonathan Tah from ten yards out (56'); 60 seconds later and the ball was in the back of the net. Moussa Diaby picked up the ball just before the halfway line, carried it forward, played a one-two with Wirtz and then was slightly fortunate that Guilherme Ramos unintentionally set him up to score the second goal from eight yards out.
The Werkself then appeared to ease off. A Diaby shot from 17 yards out was hit at the middle of the target (63') and then Hradecky had to deny Masaya Okugawa as he suddenly appeared in front of our captain (67'). The Werkself exerted their control on the game through possession and took less risks going forward. The match started to drift and there were several substitutions before the final minutes. Diaby then wrapped up the game at 3-0 with the shot of the match for his second goal in the game (81')
The Werkself are away to the league leaders on matchday 25. Bayern Munich entertain the team under head coach Gerardo Seoane on Saturday 5 March. The kick-off is at 15.30 CET.
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Frimpong (Fosu-Mensah 76’), Tah (Kossounou 86’), Tapsoba, Bakker (Hincapie 83’) - Aránguiz, Palacios (Demirbay 76’) - Diaby (Adli 83’), Wirtz, Paulinho - Alario
Bielefeld: Ortega - de Medina, Ramos, Nilsson, Laursen – Vasiliadis (Castro 46’), Kunze – Wimmer (Hack 76’), Schöpf (Krüger 86’), Okugawa (Bello 76’) – Serra (Lasme 46’)
Goals: 1-0 Alario (30’), 2-0 Diaby (57’), 3-0 Diaby (81’)
Referee: Martin Petersen (Stuttgart)
Attendance: 10,000 (sold out)
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