22.10.2020Europa League

Werkself start Europa League campaign with emphatic win

Bayer 04 got off to a perfect start in the Europa League group stage on Thursday evening. The Werkself enjoyed a 6-2 win over French side OGC Nice after an impressive performance, with their goals coming from Nadiem Amiri (11’), Lucas Alario (16’), Moussa Diaby (61’), Karim Bellarabi (79’, 83’) and Florian Wirtz (87’).

Bayer 04 coach Peter Bosz was without his captain for the first match of the new Europa League campaign: Charles Aránguiz missed out with an Achilles problem and was replaced in the holding midfield role by Julian Baumgartlinger. Wendell and Exequiel Palacios also made their first starts of the season, with Daley Sinkgraven and Kerem Demirbay dropping to the bench. They were joined by Florian Wirtz, who returned to the squad following his abdominal muscle injury.


The weather conditions made it hard for both teams to play flowing football, with heavy rain – particularly in the opening minutes – soaking the pitch at the BayArena. Set pieces were therefore an even more effective weapon, and it was from one of these that the Werkself had their first attempt on goal, but Nadiem Amiri’s free-kick landed in the arms of Walter Benitez (10’).

But just a minute later, Bosz’s men showed that you can still produce attractive, one-touch football. Leon Bailey picked up the ball on the right wing, cut inside, played a one-two with Lucas Alario and then delivered a perfectly weighted through ball to Amiri, who went past Dante before keeping his cool in front of Benitez to give Bayer 04 the early lead. Things got even better soon after: the Werkself’s second goal was one for the end-of-year highlights. Alario controlled a chipped pass from Baumgartlinger, left one opponent for dead and fired at goal from an almost impossible angle. The Argentinian’s unstoppable shot crashed against the underside of the crossbar and in (16’).




Bayer 04 were very much on top in the game, quick to the challenges and switching to attack at speed. They continued to create chances, Bailey being denied by Benitez from long range (17’) and Moussa Diaby testing the Nice goalkeeper from a corner (26’).

Nice barely had a sniff of goal in the opening half-hour, which made it even more annoying for Bayer 04 that the visitors scored with their first serious attempt. After the Werkself lost possession in midfield, Stanley N’Soki broke forward and found Amine Gouiri on the edge of the area. The young attacker’s precise shot into the right corner left Lukas Hradecky with no chance (31’). Lifted by the goal, Nice came into the game more before half-time and Hassane Kamara went close with a shot (41’).

Palacios' TEXTBOOK TACKLE sets up diaby

Bayer 04 regained control of proceedings after the interval, dominating the midfield like they did at the start of the first half. However, it was the French side who created the first opportunity of the second period on the break, but Hradecky made a flying save from Gouiri’s shot (54’). Overall, though, the Werkself were moving the ball around very well and breaking up Nice’s play effectively. This was how they scored their third goal – and Palacios demonstrated how beautiful tackles can be on a wet surface. The Argentinian poked the ball away from the feet pf experienced Nice midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin just outside the penalty box, meaning Diaby was free in front of goal to confidently make it 3-1 (61’).

Bosz subs kill off the game

The hosts now had the match firmly in their grip, continued to win numerous balls in midfield and rarely let Nice get going. Bosz brought on Karim Bellarabi and Wirtz for Palacios and Alario – and it proved to be a touch of magic. After a corner was cleared, Bellarabi got away from his marker outside the area and found the bottom left corner of the net with a powerful lot shot (79’). And when something works so well, why not try it again? For a change, Bailey played the next Werkself corner straight to Bellarabi, who rifled in the next goal from a similar position, with the help of a slight deflection (83’).

His fellow substitute Wirtz had some catching up to do. After a sublime through ball from Bailey, Diaby played the ball precisely into the path of the youngster, who bagged the Werkself’s sixth goal from close range (87’). Everything just came off for Bayer 04 during this spell, although the visitors did manage a consolation goal from substitute Claude-Maurice in the 90th minute.

The Werkself can therefore take a resounding win with them into another packed week, which starts with a home match against FC Augsburg on Monday 26 October (kick-off 20:30 CET). In the Europa League, Bayer 04 travel to Slavia Prague in a week’s time. The Czechs suffered a surprising 3-1 defeat at Hapoel Be’er Sheva in their opening fixture.

Match stats:

Bayer 04: Hradecky – L. Bender (Dragovic 81'), S. Bender (Tah 81'), Tapsoba, Sinkgraven – Baumgartlinger - Palacios (Wirtz 74') , Amiri – Bailey, Alario (Bellarabi 74'), Diaby

OGC Niice Benitez - Lotomba (Latal 80'), Robson Bambu, Dante, Nsoki (Rony Lopes 63'), Kamara - Boudaoui (Claude-Maurice 63'), Schneiderlin, Lees-Melou (Ndoye 86'), Kamara, Gouiri - Dolberg (Maolida 71')

Goals: 1-0 Amiri (11'), 2-0 Alario (16'), 2-1 Gouiri (31'), 3-1 Diaby (61'), 4-1 Bellarabi (79'), 5-1 Bellarabi (83'), 6-1 Wirtz (87'), 6-2 Claude-Maurice (90')

Booked: Baumgartlinger, L. Bender, Wendell - Gouiri, Noski

Referee: Fran Jovic (Croatia)

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