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5.08.2018Bayer 04

Winning run continues with victory in Austria

The training camp in Austria has finished on a high: Before heading home, the Werkself beat top-flight Saudi Arabian side Al-Wahda Mecca 1-0 in a physical encounter to remain unbeaten in the pre-season friendlies. The only goal of the game was scored by Kai Havertz.
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"I'm happy. All the players were totally motivated and were determined to work hard in really hot weather. As we did on Thursday, we played  against a team that sat back very deep and really closed down spaces. It was a good benchmark for what we'll face in the league and in Europe," said Heiko Herrlich in drawing a positive conclusion from the game even though his team could have won by a bigger margin given the chances created, particularly in the first half. 

Paulinho makes first start

In the penultimate pre-season friendly, the Bayer 04 coach had to manage without Lukas Hradecky (rehab), Panos Retsos (thigh), Charles Aránguiz (knee), Leon Bailey (shoulder) and Karim Bellarabi (rehab)  – Paulinho made his first start for Leverkusen against Al-Wahda.

The Werkself set the pace from the start at the Goldberg Stadium against an idyllic Alpine with some great passing football. Driven on by the skipper Lars Bender, the Herrlich team created four good chances in the  first 20 minutes but were unable to find the back of the opposition net. Bayer 04 finally made the breakthrough just before the half-hour mark: Kai Havertz received the ball from the left and hit a low drive from 14 yards out that came back off the right-hand post but he was able to convert the rebound to make it 1-0 on 26 minutes. The Saudis failed to pose  a threat up front in the first 45. Bayer 04 keeper Thorsten Kirschbaum only had to make one save before the break – and without any problems (30'). The Werkself took the narrow lead into the break with the two managing directors Fernando Carro and Rudi Völler, sporting director Jonas Boldt and former Leverkusen player Ramalho watching from the stand.

nine changes at the break

With the temperature just above 30 degrees, Herrlich sent on nine substitutes for the start of the second-half – including Kevin Volland plus three U19 players Jan Boller, Kevin Bukusu and Ayman Azhil. "The lads have done well at the training  camp and have earned their chance," declared Herrlich. The significantly less experienced  Werkself side were quick to challenge as they attempted to stop the, in part, very aggressive Saudi team from breaking out. They received vocal instruction from their coach on the touchline. With some success – even if clear-cut chances were a rarity up to the final whistle. A strike from Volland was ruled offside on the hour mark. "We absolutely dominated the first phase of the game. But sometimes you have to work hard in football. Kevin Volland and Dominik Kohr did that in the second half after we almost completely changed the line-up in an exemplary performance from the two of them," said Herrlich, whose players clocked up a fifth win in the sixth and penultimate pre-season friendly with a battling display.

After the final whistle, the Werkself set off for Germany straight away. The players have Monday and Tuesday off before the pre-season work is resumed on Wednesday.  

Bayer 04: Kirschbaum – Weiser (Bednarczyk 46'), Tah (Dragovic 46'), S. Bender (Boller 46'), Henrichs (Wendell 46') – L. Bender (Stanilewicz 60'), Baumgartlinger (Kohr 46') – Brandt (Volland 46'), Havertz (Azhil 46'), Paulinho (Schreck 46') – Alario (Bukusu 46')

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