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Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs 1. FC Union Berlin

Bundesliga, 11. Matchday

Leverkusen vs 1. FC Union

Bundesliga, 11. Matchday

Sun., 12. November 2023, 15:30 Uhr
BayArena
4 : 0
29.387
SR: Timo Gerach

Union Lose in Leverkusen

Match report

1. FC Union Berlin had a chastening afternoon on Sunday, losing 4-0 to the excellent, table-topping Bayer Leverkusen. The hosts’ goals came from Alejandro Gimaldo, Kouakou Kossounou, Jonathan Tah and the substitute Nathan Tella.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen: Hradecky – Hincapie, Tah, Kossounou – Grimaldo, Xhaka, Palacios (87. Andrich), Frimpong (81. Tella) – Wirtz (87. Mbamba), Boniface (Hlzek), Hofmann (81.  Adli) 
 
1. FC Union Berlin: Rönnow – Juranović (46. Trimmel), Jaeckel, Bonucci (23. Knoche), Leite, Roussillon (78. Gosens) – Král, Laïdouni – Haberer, Fofana (78. Behrens), Becker (64. Aaronson) 

Attendance: 29.387  
 
Goals: 1:0 Grimaldo (23.), 2:0 Kossounou (57.), 3:0 Tah (73.), 4:0 Tella (83.)  

The team

Urs Fischer made just a single change from the side who performed so creditably in midweek in Naples. That was simply the enforced change of the suspended Rani Khedira for Alex Kral in central midfield, where he was to be joined by Janik Haberer and Aissa Laidouni.

That meant that the back three of Diogo Leite, Leonardo Bonucci and Paul Jaeckel – who Fischer was keen to praise during his pre-match press conference – flanked by Josip Juranovic and Jerome Roussillon, on the right and left respectively.

Up top he had once again gone for the explosiveness of Sheraldo Becker and David Datro Fofana, himself buoyed by his first competitive goal for the club.

Leverkusen in control, Grimaldo opens the scoring

Despite the final result, Leverkusen actually started slowly on a crisp Sunday afternoon, easing themselves into a game that would take a while for the game to spring into life. Indeed, it actually all started off a little scruffily. Kral robbed Florian Wirtz in the middle, Wirtz was robbed by Roussillon, Exequiel Palacios sent an attempted through ball way into touch. But the Leverkusen midfield were quick to smother Union on the few occasions they got the ball, pinging passes back and forth when they had it.

Union were backing themselves at the back, such as when Jaeckel did well to outjump Boniface – who Union know all too well from last season’s thousand games against his Royale Union Saint-Gilloise side – after eight minutes. Fischer was encouraged by their performance at first, as he was keen to laud the superb support from the travelling fans, away in a small corner of the stadium. 

Boniface then scuffed a shot with his left when on the edge of the box. Becker did superbly to chase him down shortly after that after Leverkusen broke at pace, from left to right and back again. Laidouni nipped in ahead of the Nigerian striker after 15 minutes, when Wirtz’s cutback seemed to be heading straight for him.

Rönnow made the difference for Union, repeatedly. He had to be sharp to race out, diving at the feet of Wirtz, howling at his defenders when he had successfully returned to his goal.

He saved brilliantly from Boniface’ downward header point blank, reacting like a shot with both hands. With ten minutes to play Kouakou Kossounou danced around the ball in the box, laying it off for Jeremie Frimpong. Again, Rönnow did well to palm his shot away for a corner.

The hosts thought they had a penalty after quarter of an hour, as if out of nowhere, when the ball struck the top of Jaeckel’s arm as he challenged Jonathan Tah at a deep-swinging corner. He knew nothing about it.

The players surrounded the referee as he pondered his decision, before going off to check the video replay. It took half a lifetime, or so it felt, and at the end, all Leverkusen got out of it was a corner.

But despite all their possession, Union were still largely solid at the back as the half wore on, their lines straight and clear, all hands on deck. Roussillon, relishing his return to the side, tackled and turned Grimaldo in his own box. As Fischer said later, "They didn't have too many opportunities from play in the first half, but when they open up like that, there's nothing you can do." 

He was aluding to the moment when Wirtz and Grimaldo exchanged a couple of lightning quick passes just outside the box. Grimaldo struck the ball first time with his left, across and over Rönnow, a superb, devastating finish.

If their hosts were improving by the minute, Union’s luck also wasn’t in at all. Palacios wiped out Fofana from behind as he started to go up the middle. Fofana tried an extravagant little backheel to Becker following Roussillon’s neat ball up the line, but Frimpong had seen it coming. Granit Xhaka timed his slide well to dispossess Becker as he tried in vain to conjure something going forward.

Fofana slipped with five minutes to go the ground disappearing from under him as he tried to reach a Knoche long ball with no-one around him.

Knoche, on for the injured Bonucci after only 23 minutes, slid in to stop another ominous Boniface-bound ball.

There were times when Union couldn’t lay foot on ball, but their best effort of the half came in the 42nd minute when Hradecky saved Haberer’s header from Becker’s cross. The Leverkusen players had grown more dominant as the half wore on, making triangles, pushing and pulling Union everywhere but which way, Granit Xhaka a metronome, Wirtz a flashing blade, whose best chance came on the stroke of half time when he drew another fine stop from Rönnow, this time diving to his left at full stretch.

Leverkusen turn the screw, Union all out of luck

Fischer changed Juranovic for Trimmel at half time, but still Leverkusen moved the ball around with expert precision, Piero Hincapie’s backheel to get himself out of trouble early on a perfect case in point. They would carry on where they left off, their lofty position in the table a reflection of their skill and dexterity with the ball.

Laidouni, constantly offering himself up, always hunting, shot straight at Hradecky from 25 yards. He won a corner having slipped Fofana in with a delicate slider ten minutes into the half as Union tried to assert themselves in the Leverkusen half. His clearance when challenging Boniface was a thing of stinging brutality, the ball speeding away for a corner he was certain had taken a touch first before being given for a corner.

Union would rue the referee’s call, and Fischer said that it summed up Union's luck. "The fact that the corner before the second goal was unjustified just fits the picture." He wasn't deluding himself though. In his press conference after the game he also shook his head at the "too many mistakes made". 

For the corner was hit deep towards the back post where Kossounou rose in the crowd to power a header home and, as simply as that, Eintracht lead 2-0.

Boniface caused havoc, running at Knoche, and it took a last second intervention from Roussillon to nod Frimpong’s looped effort over the bar from practically on the goalline. As it took all of Leite, Laidouni and Haberer to take it back off him with half an hour to play, yet still, somehow, Leverkusen ended up with the ball again. It was that kind of a day for Union.

Union didn’t give up hope. Fofana skipped past Tah, hitting the byline but was expertly bundled over by Hincapie before he could cross back across goal.

Laidouni found Aaronson, on for Becker, but Kossounou shrugged him away, and Bayer countered again, using the full width of the pitch, the ball as if on one of the strings swinging the spider-cam over the pitch. Laidouni got in front of Frimpong after another superb Boniface diagonal pass into the box.

The resulting corner led to Leverkusen’s third, as, after a moment of chaos in the box, Tah popped up at the back post and cleverly lifted the ball with the side of his foot over a Rönnow who could do little about it.

Fischer replaced the tireless Roussillon with Robin Gosens and the luckless Fofana with Kevin Behrens with ten minutes to play, the striker immediately getting on the end of a Laidouni pass, and narrowly missing a Trimmel ball into the box.

But soon after that it was all done. Leverkusen broke again at pace, the ball finding its way into the path of the substitute, Nathan Tella, who lashed it into the roof of the net without breaking stride having darted into the box. It was practically his first touch of the game, as it was the final nail in Union’s coffin for the day.

Leverkusen had been superb, and are atop the league on merit; the good news is that Union will face few harder tests than them this season.

Away in Leverkusen

Match preview

"After the game is before the game" - true to the motto of coaching legend Sepp Herberger, time has been short for the players of 1. FC Union Berlin to prepare for the next task following their draw with SCC Napoli in the UEFA Champions League. As such, head coach Urs Fischer's team face Bayer 04 Leverkusen tomorrow, Sunday. Kick off at the BayArena is at 15:30.

The opponents

The Werkself are currently the team to look up to in German top flight football. Head coach Xabi Alonso's team have improved both in terms of results and play compared to last season and are inspiring confidence among their club management, fans and media alike. At the start of the matchday weekend, Leverkusen were sat in first place in the table, having recorded nine wins and have 28 points to their name. Both are club records and have only been surpassed once in the history of the league. The record is held by a club featuring their Coach Alonso when his FC Bayern side won their first ten games in 2015/16.

The current run of victories is made possible in particular by a brilliantly balanced attack, in which Florian Wirtz and the two summer signings Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface in particular play key roles. With seven, ten and twelve scorer points respectively, the attacking trio are implementing coach Alonso's game plan almost perfectly; but the team as a whole also boasts some of the top statistics in the league. Bayer have the best passing percentages at just under 90%, and are also among the top three in terms of possession with an average of 57%.

Both figures and the results also show that they know how to conceal their own weakness in the air: only 114 headers won are by far the fewest in the Bundesliga. Also half of their goals conceded have been from high balls (five out of 10). That, in turn, should give Union hope, as Fischer's team are one of the strongest teams when it comes to crosses and headers.

The reunion

Union will face a former colleague and companion in Robert Andrich on Sunday, as there will also be a player in their own ranks who could line up against their former club. Offensive powerhouse Kevin Volland played for Bayer for four years before his transfer to Monaco, scoring 50 times and providing a further 32 assists in 148 appearances.

The head to head

The last time the sides met, at the BayArena took, place almost exactly a year ago under completely different circumstances. As the Bundesliga leaders, Union travelled to the 16th-placed team in the table on 6 November 2022. This time the tables have been turned.

Of the eleven meetings in the German top flight to date, Union have won one, while the club from the Rhineland have won six. There have been four draws.

Personnel

Danilho Doekhi, Alexander Schwolow and András Schäfer will not be available on Sunday. Rani Khedira is suspended due to his red card from the game against Werder Bremen.

The coaches views ahead of the game

"Leverkusen are currently the best team in the league," said Fischer during his press conference on Saturday afternoon. "They look very well-drilled, confident and stable and are always looking for playful solutions. They have a lot of individual quality in attack, but they're also very solid in defence. For us, it's about picking up where we left off in Naples. That means remaining compact and being courageous when going forwards with the ball." 

"We're not the absolute favourites," said his opposite number, Alonso, meanwhile. "Union have only lost a few games and are a very, very strong team. We expect a tough game and we have to play with high quality, energy and intensity." 

Service information

Around 1,300 Union fans will accompany the team to Leverkusen, and tickets for the guest block will also be available on the gate on Sunday. Further information for all away fans can be found here (German).

The match will be broadcast live on DAZN and there will also be an audio stream on rbb24 Inforadio and rbb24. As usual, Union will also provide information about the match in the club's own live ticker, as well as in English and Spanish on twitter. 

AFTV Videos

Jérôme Roussillon

Jérôme Roussillon

was Player of the Day for the last time against Leverkusen

Jérôme Roussillon

was Player of the Day against Leverkusen

MatchStatistics

Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs 1. FC Union Berlin

69 % Possession 31 %
91 % Pass Completion Rate 80 %
48 % Successful Tackle Rate 52 %
18 Shots on Goal 2
8 Crosses 12
0 Yellow Cards 1
0 Yellow-Red Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0

Last match

Date Home Result Away