“It was difficult to play football here as Pforzheim let the grass grow extra long to disrupt our passing game. But we battled our way into the game and the goal was enough to take us through,” said central defender Jonathan Tah after the match.
Bayer 04 had to manage without six players in the opening game of the season: Lukas Hradecky (draw), Panos Retsos (by), Joel Pohjanpalo (ankle), Charles Aránguiz (Achilles), Leon Bailey (cold) and Karim Bellarabi (knee) were all sidelined. There was a newcomer in the Leverkusen starting eleven with Mitchell Weiser at right back. Benny Henrichs was not in the squad with coach Heiko Herrlich bringing in another midfielder in the shape of Sam Schreck.
The Holzhof Stadium had its own unique charm: A small stand with all the nearly 5,000 standing and seated spectators just two metres away from the edge of the pitch: Football close-up and that’s only possible in the cup. Before the game, Heiko Herrlich had warned his players about the special circumstances that awaited in the sporting province. And the hosts were in no way intimidated in their match of the year. “We’re in with a shout. We can hurt any opponent and we’ll get our chances,” said the Pforzheim coach Gökhan Gökce boldly ahead of the game.
Pforzheim lived up to their word and, a minute into the game, they made their first foray into the Bayer 04 penalty area only to be abruptly stopped by Sven Bender. His brother Lars had the first shot for the Werkself but his effort on four minutes flew high over the bar. The Werkself endeavoured to gain control and influence of the game but that proved difficult with a combination of a very unforgiving pitch and an initial absence of precision in build-up play. The home side managed to keep Leverkusen far from their goal up to the first drinks break on 20 minutes. And then they went one better: Stanley Ratifo had a great chance to open the scoring on 23 minutes but Rambo Özcan reacted brilliantly in a one-on-one eleven metres out to maintain his clean sheet.
Shortly after that, the favourites took the lead. Sven Bender was brought down in the box by Akeyoshi Saito and Lucas Alario stepped up to slot in the spot-kick to make it 1-0 on 27 minutes. Kai Havertz missed the chance to double the lead five minutes later with a left-foot shot that went just wide of the far post and also a second effort just after the half-hour mark. A free kick from Volland then hit the top of the bar (37’). A bitter blow followed when Julian Baumgartlinger twisted his left knee badly in a challenge that resulted in him being carried off with a ligament injury (42’). He was replaced by Isaac Kiese Thelin just before the break.
Almost immediately after the restart, the Swede headed a Volland cross into the back of the net but the referee Frank Willenborg ruled the goal out as Kiese Thelin had allegedly fouled the Pforzheim keeper Manuel Salz in an aerial challenge in the six-yard box (48’). Julian Brandt could have made it 2-0 on the hour mark but, unmarked in front of goal, he failed to connect properly after good work by Alario and Lars Bender (62’). The game was over a minute later for the skipper after he picked up a knock and was replaced in holding midfield by Dominik Kohr.
Then the woodwork shook twice in 20 seconds: First, Havertz received the ball from Weiser and fired a right-foot shot against the underside of the bar (72’) before Dominik Salz rounded off a counter-attack for Pforzheim with a shot against the outside of the post. Paulinho came on for Brandt (73’). Alario was unable to beat keeper Manuel Salz from close range (75’), Kiese Thelin put a header from a Weiser cross just wide of the upright and another effort from Alario went over the target (83’) – in spite of a number of good chances the cup tie ended in a narrow 1-0 win the sees the Werkself go through to the second round of the DFB Cup.
Bayer 04 are back in action on Saturday 25 August in an 18.30 CET kick-off for the first Bundesliga fixture of the season away to Borussia Mönchengladbach.
CfR Pforzheim: M. Salz – Borac (Oman 88’), Grupp, Citescu, Saito – Tardelli, Gudzevic (Ku. Lushtaku 88’) – Zinram, Ratifo, Kr. Lushtaku – D. Salz
Bayer 04: Özcan – Weiser, Tah, S. Bender, Wendell – L. Bender (Kohr 63’), Baumgartlinger (Kiese Thelin 45’) – Volland, Havertz, Brandt (Paulinho 73’) – Alario
Goals: 0-1 Alario (27', pen.)
Referee: Willenborg (Osnabrück)
Booked: Gudzevic, D. Salz – S. Bender, Kiese Thelin, Wendell
Attendance : 4,725
The Werkself beat Werder Bremen 3-0 on Bundesliga matchday 12 and again succeeded in holding on to top spot in the table as well as setting a new Bundesliga and club record. The facts, stats and reaction to the away win in Bremen is here in the Werkself review.Show more
The annual Black and Red Week is drawing to a close. And day 04, on Sunday 26 November, brings you an exclusive offer on Bayer 04 membership…Show more
The first of eight games across all competitions before the winter break has been won: The Werkself beat Werder Bremen 3-0 away on Bundesliga matchday 12. The goals scored were an own goal (9') and one each from Jeremie Frimpong (42') and Alejandro Grimaldo (76'). The away win ensures Bayer 04 stay top of the table.Show more
The final international break of 2023 is over and now Bayer 04 start a busy run of fixtures up to the winter break. The first of eight games across all competitions before Christmas is today’s away fixture at Werder Bremen (kick-off: 15.30 CET). The latest updates on the game at the Weserstadion.Show more