"We conceded two daft penalties today," declared a disappointed Kai Havertz after the game. "We did well in the first half and we created some clear-cut chances. In the second half, we gave Gladbach too much space in midfield. Of course, we have to be much smarter," said Julian Brandt: "The first half was evenly balanced but unfortunately we invited the opposition to score in the second. If you go 2-0 down here, it's difficult to come back. Gladbach are a good team and deserved to win today."
Bayer 04 head coach Heiko Herrlich had to manage without seven players at Borussia Park: Julian Baumgartlinger (knee), Lukas Hradecky (rehab), Joel Pohjanpalo (ankle) and Panos Retsos (thigh) were joined on the injury list this week by keeper Thorsten Kirschbaum (thigh) plus Lars and Sven Bender (knee and ankle respectively). On the plus side, Charles Aránguiz returned to the squad to take his place on the bench. The 29-year-old Chilean had just returned after knee and Achilles problems.
Herrlich made four changes to the side that beat CfR Pforzheim 1-0 in the DFB Cup at Pforzheim. Mitchell Weiser, Sven and Lars Bender plus Julian Baumgartlinger were replaced by Benjamin Henrichs, who played at right back, Aleksandar Dragovic was in central defence, Dominik Kohr (along with Kai Havertz) was in holding midfield and Leon Bailey lined up on the left wing.
Around 3,000 Black and Red fans travelled to support the Werkself in the opening fixture in Bundesliga season 40 for Bayer 04. It was also the 1,331st match for Leverkusen in Germany's top flight and the 73rd league encounter with Borussia Mönchengladbach (27 wins, 19 draws, 26 defeats).
For the hosts, who lost the two league games and a DFB Cup tie against the Werkself, coach Dieter Hecking decided not to start his new french signing Alassane Plea in attack.
The Werkself made a bright start with a 4-2-3-1 formation in front a 54,000 crowd at Borussia Park , moving the ball well and creating the initial chances in front of goal. Bailey (7') from a fine pass by Havertz and Alario (9') from a Bailey cross had the first goalscoring opportunities. Bayer 04 had the upper hand in the opening stages of the game and were unlucky on 17 minutes with Bailey heading a pin-point cross from Kevin Volland against the bar - the first real chance of the match.
Gladbach's first efforts on goal came on the half-hour mark. A dangerous attack by the hosts down the right with a pass from Thorgan Hazard aimed at Hofman was cleared at the last moment by Jonathan Tah (28').
Then came the next big chance for the Werkself: Brandt broke into the penalty area on the right, sent in a low cross to Volland, who shot from five yards out. Gladbach's Matthias Ginter saved the ball on the line with his chest (33'). But the hosts then also had a good chance to open the scoring. When Benny Henrichs handled the ball in his own box, the referee Christian Dingert awarded a spot-kick. Werkself goalkeeper 'Rambo' Özcan did really well to keep out Hazard's penalty on 38 minutes. An absorbing first half with more chances for the Werkself ended with the two teams level at 0-0.
Gladbach were on the front foot after the restart applying more pressure and were more aggressive. There was a second spot-kick for the hosts when Dragovic brought down Florian Neuhaus in the penalty area. This time, Hofmann stepped up to convert his effort to make it 1-0 (55') - Özcan stood no chance. Borussia doubled the lead just three minutes later: Johnson played a one-two with Raffael before making it 2-0 with a close-range effort on 58 minutes. The Werkself took time to recover from the double whammy. Herrlich brought on new signing Isaac Kiese Thelin in place of defender Henrichs and changed to three at the back.
Bayer 04 again attempted to apply pressure and succeeded in creating a number of decent chances through Volland (66') plus Kiese Thelin and Alario (67'). Both times the Werkself lacked that touch of luck with their finishing. And Gladbach now had space to exploit. Borussia almost went 3-0 up through Raffael but Özcan was able to turn his close-range shot onto the post (69').
The Werkself remained in the game, tried everything and had further chances through Bailey (77') and Alario (85'). A header from the Argentinian from six yards out was kept out with a reflex save from Yann Sommer. The hosts also had chances to increase their lead.
Bayer 04 are back in action next Saturday 1 September (15.30 CET) in the first home game of the season. The opponents at the BayArena are VfL Wolfsburg.
Borussia Mönchengladbach: Sommer - Beyer, Ginter, Jantschke, Wendt - Neuhaus (Zakaria 88'), Strobl, Hofmann - Johnson (Herrmann 83'), Raffael (Plea 79'), T. Hazard
Bayer 04: Özcan – Henrichs (Thelin 64'), Tah, Dragovic, Wendell – Kohr, Havertz - Volland (Bellarabi 77'), Brandt, Bailey (Weiser 77')- Alario
Goals: 1-0 Hofmann (55' pen.), 2-0 Johnson (58')
Referee: Christian Dingert (Gries)
Booked: Ginter - Kohr, Henrichs
Notable moments: Özcan saves Hazard penalty (38')
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