Werkself review #FCAB04: 'Feeling of joy you rarely get'

After numerous chances, it was the last shot on goal that saw Exequiel Palacios set off euphoric celebrations amongst the travelling Bayer 04 fans in the first competitive match of the new year as the Werkself were rewarded for their relentless and determined performance at FC Augsburg. The 1-0 away win on Bundesliga matchday 17 keeps the Werkself top of the table in the Hinrunde in 2023/24 without a single defeat as they made a successful start to 2024. The reaction, stats and facts on the hard-fought win in Augsburg are here in the Werkself review.

Summary: Fought to the end

After problems at the start of the game against an aggressive FC Augsburg, the Black and Reds took control of the game in the middle of the first half leaving FCA with increasingly few chances to break through. Alejandro Grimaldo and Adam Hlozek had a promising double chance on 18 minutes but failed to find the back of the net. Patrik Schick, who was denied by the FCA keeper Finn Dahmen (19’) and later headed wide (34'), Grimaldo, who hit the bar with a long-range effort (28'), plus Robert Andrich, with a header from a corner (38.), had clear-cut chances. But the score remained 0-0. It was similar after the restart: One chance after the next but the opening goal remained elusive. Augsburg almost broke the deadlock but the strike from Augsburg's Phillip Tietz was ruled out for an offside in the build-up. The Werkself continued to press the FCA defence and the in-form Augsburg keeper but only managed to open the scoring late on: Grimaldo crossed for the well-placed Exequiel Palacios to hit the ball into the net in added time (90+4') for the final scoreline of 1-0. The match report.

Reaction: „"Belief in the win was really big"

Midfielder Jonas Hofmann gave the following emotional analysis after the match: "Belief in the win was really big. The morale, the commitment, the mentality of this team – it's all remarkable. My heart's still racing. It's a feeling of joy you rarely get." The Germany international also shared his thanks for the impressive support in the first competitive match of 2024: "A big welcome to all fans who travelled with us and supported us. I think we were able to give the fans in the ground and on the couch at home goosebumps." 2,300 Bayer 04 supporters travelled to Augsburg.

Granit Xhaka was also relieved after the match: "Augsburg pushed as all the way. But you could see we definitely wanted to win the game. We are very happy as wins like that give us an awful lot."

Jubel Granit Xhaka

Head coach Xabi Alonso summed the match up as follows: "It was a very intense game for us. The lads believed in the win right to the end. The goal wasn't lucky but rather reward for good work. The three points feel really good." The Spaniard also looked forward to the next challenge in the league: "We can now enjoy the win a little and then focus on the match in Leipzig from Monday."

What the papers: "Last-minute Leverkusen"

Bild-Zeitung reports "Salvation right at the end!" with the headline "Last-minute Leverkusen". The kicker witnessed "squandered chances" from the Werkself who "clearly took command of proceedings" after half-time. The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger awarded top marks to the scorer of the winner Exequiel Palacios. The appraisal: "Again and again the aggressive leader in midfield, won the ball back a lot. His long-range efforts lacked accuracy. But then he was the matchwinner with his goal in added time." And the Rheinische Post named the Argentinian World Cup winner as the Man of the Match. They also reported: "In spite of numerous players ruled out, Bayer 04 finished top of the table in the first half of the season with a couple of weeks delay."

Personnel: Schick clocks up century – late winner from Palacios

Werkself striker Patrik Schick made his 100th appearance for Bayer 04 in the game against FC Augsburg and he had the most chances with four shots on goal in the game. But the deadlock was broken by his teammate Palacios. In the nine goals scored for Bayer 04 by the Argentinian to date, it was the third to come in added time. Palacios netted the winner against SC Freiburg in the 2-1 victory in May 2022 (90 + 7') and the late leveller in the 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich last September (90+4'). The assist for Palacios for the winner in Augsburg was provided by Grimaldo for his seventh Bundesliga assist of the season.


Schick absolviert 100. Bayer 04-Spiel

Stats: Second most shots on goal, only last one goes in

The Werkself had a total of 24 shots on goal against FC Augsburg but only the last one found its way into the back of the net to give the Black and Reds the away win. It was the second highest number of shots on goal in a match this term with Leverkusen only having more efforts in the game against SV Darmstadt (25). The other numbers in the game against FCA also speak for themselves: 75.9% possession, twelve corners to zero, and 786 passes compared with 252 for Augsburg. Unusually, it was the first time the Black and Reds ended the first half goalless.

The win on matchday 17 keeps the Werkself top of the table and it is the third time they have been in top spot at the end of the Hinrunde following on from 2001/02 and 2009/10. The Black and Reds can also look back at the best Hinrunde in the club's history with the third highest number of points in the history of the Bundesliga (45). Only Bayern Munich have clocked up more points at the same stage (47 in 2013/14 and 46 in 2015/16).

Outlook: Rückrunde starts in Leipzig

The Werkself are away to RB Leipzig in the first match in the second half of the season next weekend. The top game on matchday 18 at the Red Bull Arena kicks off at 18.30 CET on Saturday 20 January.

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