Heiko Herrlich's free-scoring Bayer Leverkusen finding their top-flight flow
Batten down the hatches, Bayer Leverkusen are blasting their way up the Bundesliga standings, scoring a barrelful of goals as they go and Leon Bailey bringing the good vibes.
Die Werkself walloped home a whopping five in one half for only the second time in their history as they came from behind to maul Borussia Mönchengladbach 5-1 on Matchday 9. Sven Bender, Leon Bailey, Julian Brandt, Kevin Volland and Joel Pohjanpalo were all on target in Bayer’s biggest triumph of the campaign, and their first away win this season. Kai Havertz was also a crucial component in the come-from-behind success, the 18-year-old providing three assists as Heiko Herrlich’s second-half tactical change came up trumps.
“The first half was brutal, we were never in the game and were collectively relieved to hear the half-time whistle,” was goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s honest assessment of an opening 45 minutes in which Fabian Johnson had put the Foals ahead.
Yet with the introduction of Brandt at the break and an altered formation that saw Volland positioned to a central striking role and Bailey moved from left to right, Leverkusen bewildered their opponents with blistering pace and outstanding efficiency in front of goal.
“We were more compact, often even a little deeper,” defender Jonathan Tah remarked. Volland – who registered his fifth goal of the campaign in the rout – described his side as, “merciless.” “In the second-half we started in a frenzied fashion and scored from almost every chance we created,” coach Herrlich added, describing the win as, “very pleasing.”
Watch: There’s never a dull moment with Leon Bailey on board at Bayer Leverkusen!
Leverkusen have now scored at least once in their last 14 games, yet the numbers have risen exponentially as 2017/18 has advanced. Saturday’s win took Die Werkself’s tally to eleven goals in their previous four encounters. Indeed, Herrlich’s team are the third-highest scorers in the Bundesliga this season, their 20 strikes trailing only the totals of co-leaders Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. As many as 12 different players have found the net in nine top-flight matches this term as Leverkusen continue to recover from a slow start that yielded just one point in three opening Bundesliga matches.
“We have improved a lot,” attacker Brandt insisted. “We still have too few points but we’re now unbeaten [in our last four games],” the 21-year-old – a scorer of three goals in nine Bundesliga games this season – continued. “Today we showed what is possible,” Sven Bender said, the goalscoring defender adding, “We now want to go even further.”
After a disappointing 12th place finish in 2016/17, B04 are beginning to look formidable under a coach hungry to concoct the perfect tactical recipe to take his team forward. Following a midweek DFB Pokal meeting with Union Berlin, Leverkusen are back in top-flight action at home to Cologne on Matchday 10. And it’s a case of Billy Goats beware, with one of the Bundesliga’s most goal-hungry teams appearing determined to add to their growing tally.