9.11.2023Europa League

1-0 against Qarabag – Werkself through to knockout rounds

A tough start and a frenetic end: The Werkself beat Qarabag 1-0 in the fourth group match in the Europa League and are now certain of qualifying for the knockout rounds in the competition. The hard-fought match in the Azerbaijani capital Baku against a battling home side was decided by a penalty scored by Victor Boniface in added time after the intervention of VAR.

Compared with the 3-2 win at Hoffenheim on Bundesliga matchday 10, head coach Xabi Alonso made six changes to his starting XI: Matej Kovar replaced Lukas Hradecky in goal. And Piero Hincapie, Josip Stanisic, Nathan Tella, Robert Andrich and Amine Adli also came into the side on a noisy stage at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium with the hosts looking to get on the front foot from the start. As the game progressed, Leverkusen increasingly found their way into the opposition half. On eleven minutes, Alejandro Grimaldo raced down the left flank and saw Florian Wirtz in the middle. However, Andrey Lunev was able to intercept the final pass to frustrate the first noteworthy action of the game (11’). Just one minute later, the Azerbaijani side had a chance from the edge of the Werkself penalty area from Yassine Benzia but his effort went a yard wide of the target.

hard-fought first half

The first half was evenly balanced as the game progressed with both sides primarily focusing on defending while also looking to break through the opposition defences – even if only rarely. The best chance for Bayer 04 was a header from Piero Hincapie from a corner taken by Grimaldo but the former Werkself keeper Lunev was again able to make the save (23'). The best chance for Qarabag in the first half came on 38 minutes: After Jonathan Tah lost possession in the build-up, Juninho was through on Matej Kovar but Hincapie intervened at the last moment allowing the keeper to claim the ball. The two sides went into half-time with the score at 0-0.

Grimaldo Hereingabe

Boniface penalty wins the game

The play in the second half was also tough and disjointed. The visitors tried hard but often failed to pose a threat – that was primarily down to maximum concentration by the Qarabag team. There were few chances for either side – as between 65 and 68 minutes: Qarabag Elvin Jafarguliyev headed over the bar and three minutes later, at the other end, substitute Jonas Hofmann set up his teammate Victor Boniface. Lunev was able to make the save. Another big chance for Qarabag fell to Juninho but his shot hit his teammate Abdallah Zoubir (75').

There was a frenetic closing stage to the game with Boniface having a number of chances. He went very close with an impressive overhead kick (86'). It looked like the game was going to end in a goalless draw – until the fourth minute of added time. A Grimaldo header hit the outstretched arm of Qarabag's Maksim Medvedev and referee Craig Pawson awarded a penalty to Bayer 04 after viewing the video screen. Boniface converted the penalty with a shot into the bottom right corner of the net. That secured the fourth win in the fourth group match – and set another record. The Werkself have won four European games in succession for the first time in the club's history.


Tah am Ball

outlook: at home to union berlin

Bayer 04 will travel back to Leverkusen on Friday 10 November. Before the next international break, the Werkself have matchday 11 in the Bundesliga on Sunday 12 November. Union Berlin visit the BayArena with the kick off at 15.30 CET.

Match stats:

Qarabag: Lunev (Gugeshashvili 85’) – Vesovic (Medvedev 83’), Mustafazada, Medina, Jafarguliyev (Hüseynov 89’) – Julio Romao, M. Jankovic, L. Andrade (P. Andrade 83’), Benzia (Bayramov 83’), Zoubir – Juninho

Bayer 04: Kovar – Stanisic, Tah, Hincapie – Tella (Frimpong 61’), Xhaka, Andrich, Grimaldo – Adli (Hofmann 61’), Wirtz (Hlozek 90 + 7’) – Boniface

Goals: 1-0 Boniface (90+4’ pen.)

Yellow cards: Medina, Vesovic, Gugeshashvili, Bayramov - Wirtz, Xhaka, Hofmann

Referee: Craig Pawson (England)

Attendance: 31,200 (sold out) at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium in Baku


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