Peter Bosz was able to select his starting eleven from his full squad with the exception of the two long-term injuries Joel Pohjanpalo and Panos Retsos. As expected, the Bayer 04 head coach opted for a 4-3-3 formation with Charles Aránguiz playing in the holding midfield role. "I expect a very interesting and attractive game," said the 55-year-old ahead of the game against the third-placed team from Mönchengladbach. The Borussia coach Dieter Hecking adopted the same approach ahead of kick-off.
With Germany coach Joachim Löw looking on, the hosts were the first out of the blocks at the BayArena: After just 15 seconds, Karim Bellarabi cut in from the left but Matthias Ginter was able to beat Kevin Volland to the ball and clear his lines: Aránguiz then tested the Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer with a long-range effort on two minutes. The Werkself led the way as they combined well to penetrate the Gladbach defence. Another attack involving Bellarabi saw Sommer pull off a save to keep out his shot from a tight angle (8'). And the Borussia goalkeeper was also able to save a volley from Kai Havertz on 17 minutes. In the opening stages of the game, there was little evidence of the attacking prowess of the visitors. Gladbach sat back and were able to deal with attacks thanks to their well organised defence.
There were few clear-cut chances at the start as the Black and Reds were also compact. A well-placed left-foot shot from Havertz, following an impressive back-heel from Julian Brandt, stretched Sommer as he punched the ball away for a corner (28 '). The hosts were clearly on top.
However, the third in the table team from the Lower Rhine proved to be very effective: After a successful move, the visitors exploited the first chance as Plea beat the Bayer 04 keeper Lukas Hradecky with a well-placed shot to the far post to make it 1-0 on 37 minutes. Borussia had fought their way back into the game and they had a great chance to double the lead with a Nico Elvedi header. However, Hradecky pulled off a great save to prevent his team going further behind (44') just after Sommer was easily able to keep out a Leon Bailey header from a Kevin Volland cross (41'). Gladbach went into the half-time break with a 1-0 lead.
The two teams lined up for the second half unchanged. The Werkself set the pace and first threatened the opposition goal from a Bailey corner. But the ball escaped both friend and foe (47'). Sommer then pulled off a last-ditch save to frustrate Havertz (55 ') after great work from Brandt. Bayer 04 were now on the front foot and were clearly on top. However, that went unrewarded. Havertz had the next great chance when the ball surprisingly fell to his feet from a corner. The youngster reacted quickly but was unable to place his shot from six yards out allowing Sommer to make the save (62'). Gladbach increasingly struggled at this point.
Bayer 04 created chance after chance. An impressive pass from Brandt saw Bellarabi hit the left-hand post from the right on 68 minutes. A minute later, Volland fired a shot at goal but Sommer was able to punch his effort away (69'). Sven Bender was unable to get enough power behind his header from a Brandt free-kick on 70 minutes and Volland failed to beat Sommer from close range as his header went straight to the keeper (72'). The equaliser was in the air and would have been deserved. But the Gladbach keeper was able to turn a flying header from Havertz from a Bellarabi corner against the post (77'). The hosts' number 38 then had the chance to level – his clipped shot from 19 yards out went just wide of the target (79'). The Bosz team kept on pressing - but were unable to find the back of the net. Unbelievably, the visitors almost doubled their lead with their first counter-attack when Jonas Hofmann hit a shot just wide of the right-hand post on 81 minutes.
The Werkself refused to give up: Aránguiz hit a free-kick just over the bar from 18 yards out (88'), Lars Bender tested Sommer with another header (90+2'). Then came the final whistle at the BayArena. Bayer04 gave their all and had the best of the chances – but ended up losing 1-0 in spite of 20 shots on goal to 7 and 10 corners to 3.
Bayer04 are back in action on Saturday, 26 January in an away game at VfL Wolfsburg. The game at the Volkswagen Arena kicks off at 15.30 CET..
Bayer 04: Hradecky – L. Bender, Tah, S. Bender, Wendell - Havertz, Aránguiz, Brandt - Bailey (Alario 69'), Volland, Bellarabi
Borussia Mönchengladbach: Sommer - Lang, Ginter, Elvedi, Wendt - Strobl - Zakaria (Kramer 80'), Hofmann (Neuhaus 89') - T. Hazard, Stindl, Plea (Herrmann 71')
Goals: 0-1 Plea (37')
Referee: Daniel Siebert (Berlin)
Booked: S. Bender -Wendt, Stindl
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