Moussa Diaby opened the scoring in the 4-1 win after just a minute of play - © Imago
Moussa Diaby opened the scoring in the 4-1 win after just a minute of play - © Imago

Bayer Leverkusen cruise into UEFA Europa League semi-finals after beating Union Saint-Gilloise


Moussa Diaby opened the scoring as Bayer Leverkusen fired four in a wonderful win at Union Saint-Gilloise to clinch their place in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.

Saint-Gilloise 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen (agg: 2-5)
Goals: 0-1 Diaby 2', 0-2 Bakker 37’ (assist: Hlozek), 0-3 Frimpong 60', 1-3 Terho (assist: Lapoussin), 1-4 Hlozek 79'

Despite being held to a 1-1 draw in the home leg, Leverkusen made the short journey to Brussels confident of progression with an 11-match unbeaten run behind them. They made a dream start, with Florian Wirtz tearing forward and Senne Lynen accidentally slotting the ball behind his own defence for Diaby to fire the visitors in front with just 66 seconds on the clock. The Werkself continued to show their intent with a series of fluent and pacy attacks that led to Jeremie Frimpong having a shot deflected behind and Diaby hitting wide. The hosts pushed towards the end of the first half without troubling an accomplished Leverkusen defence. They left extra space for Leverkusen to exploit on the break to deadly effect – Diaby charging forward and hitting it to Adam Hlozek on the right, whose cross was tapped under the Saint-Gilloise goalkeeper by Mitchel Bakker.

Saint-Gilloise looked to force a wayx back in the second period, with Victor Boniface heading over, but continued to offer Leverkusen ample opportunity to threaten on the break. Bakker pressed at the goalkeeper who passed straight to Jeremie Frimpong - who was delighted to slot the ball straight past him for 3-0. Saint-Gilloise struck back minutes later, with Loic Lapoussin providing some excellent supply work to cross for Casper Terho, who swivelled and shot straight in. Boniface was then almost played in at the far post from Teddy Tuema's chipped cross as the hosts sensed a comeback was on. Simon Adingra rattled the crossbar with around 20 minutes left, but Leverkusen remained calm in the face of the attempted onslaught. Hlozek's strike around 10 minutes from time on the rebound after Diaby's effort was saved secured their progression to the last four, where Jose Mourinho's Roma await.

Match stats

  • Diaby is Leverkusen's biggest attacking threat this season, with 14 goals and eight assists in all competitions, including three and one respectively in the Europa League.
  • Bakker scored his fourth goal of the season and first ever in a European competition.
  • Frimpong is Bayer's top provider with 10 assists, including four in UEFA competition. He now has nine goals.
  • Xabi Alonso's Leverkusen are unbeaten in their last five Europa League games, winning four.
  • Leverkusen have made the last four of a European competition for the first time since 2001/02 - when they reached the UEFA Champions League final.
  • Leverkusen won away in Belgium for the second time - after a 2-0 win at Lierse SK in the UEFA Champions League in November 1997.


St. Gilloise: Moris - Nieuwkoop, Kandouss (Terho 46'), Burgess, Machida - Lynen, Teuma (c) (El Azzouzi 87'), Lapoussin - Vertessen (Adingra 32'), Amani (Puertas 81'), Boniface (Nilsson 81')
Unused subs: Imbrechts, Fellous, Eckert, Sykes, Huygevelde
Out: Van der Heyden (suspended)
Coach: Karel Geraerts

Leverkusen: Hradecky (c) - Tapsoba (Kossounou 59'), Tah, Hincapie - Frimpong (Adli 71'), Andrich, Amiri (Demirbay 59'), Bakker - Diaby (Bellarabi 86'), Wirtz - Hlozek (Azmoun 86')
Unused subs:
Pentz, Lomb, Fosu-Mensah, Azhil
Lunev (back), Palacios (muscular), Schick (groin)
Xabi Alonso

As it happened

1 - 4

(0 - 2)

Union SG
Europa League
Quarter-final, 1st leg
Quarter-final, 1st leg Anderlecht Stadium, Brussels
+ 3

Leverkusen through to Europa League semi-finals!

What a performance by Alonso's men. They run out 4-1 winners on the night to progress 5-2 on aggregate. Roma or Feyenoord await in the last four!

Final stretch

Machida does really again to stop Azmoun collecting a ball over the top and racing through on goal. Three minutes have been added on...

Chance for a fifth!

Bellarabi's through on goal, but he's a bit slow to get off his shot. That allows Machida to get back and knock him off his stride as he fires straight at the keeper.

Deserved breather

Diaby and Hlozek have been a real thorn in the side of Gilloise. They make way for Bellarabi and Azmoun, with a place in the semi-finals in the bag...


Leverkusen restore their three-goal cushion to all but extinguish Gilloise's hopes of a comeback. Bakker leads the charge and feeds Diaby's run. His shot is well saved, but there's no stopping Hlozek sinking the rebound.

Adam Hložek


Adam Hložek

Yellow card


Crucial block!

Andrich slides in to stop Lynen converting on the rebound after Kossounou had got in the way of Boniface's strike. Leverkusen living dangerously...

Fresh legs

Adli's on for Leverkusen. He'll look to stretch Gilloise on the break as they chase the two goals needed to level the tie and force extra time...


Adingra cuts in off the left and leaves Hradecky rooted to the spot with a curling shot that grazes the upright. It wouldn't have counted, though - the Gilloise sub had strayed offside.

A whisker away!

Leverkusen get away with one as Boniface fails to make contact with Teuma's back-post cross. Bayer must ride this spell of Gilloise pressure.

Gilloise pull a goal back!

Substitute Casper Terho fires in with the aid of a deflection after Wirtz gets caught in possession following a Gilloise free-kick that Hradecky managed to punch clear. Crucial that Bayer keep a cool head, here...

Casper Terho


Casper Terho

Daylight for Leverkusen!

Burgess sells his goalkeeper short, who miscues a pass out from the back under pressure from Bakker. It's straight to Frimpong, who rolls in one of the easiest goals of his career. Bayer tantalisingly close now...
Jeremie Frimpong

Fresh legs

Demirbay and Kossounou are on in a pair of like-for-like changes. Leverkusen take on top-six rivals Leipzig on Sunday, remember.

Working hard

Leverkusen are shading the possession count, but are having to do a little more off the ball this second half.

Danger signs

Lapoussin tries to find Boniface with a searching left-wing cross, but it's got too much on it and the Gilloise striker heads over on the stretch.

Quick break!

Leverkusen turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye. Hlozek spins away from his marker, but doesn't spot the run of Wirtz, who had pulled away unmarked to his left. Instead he tries to find Diaby and Gilloise get it clear.

Big 45 minutes ahead!

Gilloise with an attacking switch. Leverkusen are unchanged.

Half time! St. Gilloise 0-2 Leverkusen (agg. 1-3)

Alonso couldn't have asked for much more from his side. Leverkusen have looked a real threat going forward, with Diaby and Bakker on target to carve out a two-goal cushion in the tie. As things stand, Die Werkself are heading for a semi-final showdown with either Roma or Feyenoord.

Time added on

Two minutes at the end of a first half that has gone pretty swimmingly for Leverkusen...


Teuma swings in a free-kick from the left. Machida has the leap on Andrich, but heads over. Let-off for Leverkusen - a St. Gilloise goal before the break would have transformed the mood inside the stadium.

Leverkusen extend their lead!

It gets better for Bayer! Wirtz and Diaby combine in the centre of midfield to put St. Gilloise on the back foot. The ball is shifted out to Hlozek, who arrows an inch-perfect cross towards the back post, where Bakker ghosts in unmarked to apply the finishing touch. Leverkusen now lead 3-1 on aggregate!
Mitchel Bakker

Enforced change

Vertessen appeared to pull his groin in a challenge with Tah just now. Adingra's on in his stead.

No way through

Gilloise move the ball well, but Bakker holds his ground in the box to snuff out the threat. Expertly done.


Leverkusen patiently roll the ball from right to left. Bakker injects a bit of pace to proceedings to go past his man and send a low cross into the six-yard box. Hlozek sticks out a boot, but is a touch late and the chance is gone.

Leverkusen in charge

Alonso's charges are beginning to take charge after that mini wobble following Diaby's opening goal. Wirtz feeds the Frenchman's run into the box, but the angle's tight and he sends a rushed effort wide.

Diaby's haul

That goal was Diaby's 14th of the season, and third in the 2022/23 Europa League.

End to end

Leverkusen go up the other end with Frimpong, whose shot is deflected behind for a corner. Diaby slides it to Hlozek on the edge of the area and gets it back via Wirtz, before the move breaks down. The big boys were in the mixer, too. That's a shame.

Boniface threat

Here comes the Nigerian striker again, weaving this way and that in the Leverkusen box. He gets the better of Tapsoba, but Hincapie blocks the cross behind for a corner that comes to nothing. Alonso is not impressed.

Warning shot

Roared on a by a vociferous Belgian crowd, Boniface has an effort charged down by Tah. He scored in Leverkusen in the first leg and will need to be kept in check.

Leverkusen lead!

What a start for Leverkusen! Wirtz causes panic in the Gilloise defence with a driving run. The ball breaks clear, but a touch from Teuma to take it off the toe of Hlozek inadvertently plays Diaby in on goal. He gobbles up the invite, rounding the keeper and slotting Bayer into a 2-1 aggregate lead.

Moussa Diaby


Moussa Diaby

Under way!

The ball's rolling in Belgium - St. Gilloise in yellow and blue, Leverkusen in red.

The teams are on the pitch

Time for the UEFA Europa League anthem, then we can get can feel the excitement!

Ten minutes to kick off!

The atmosphere is building in Brussels ahead of this huge clash for both clubs.

Two stonking unbeaten runs

Leverkusen make the short trip to Belgium 11 matches unbeaten in a spell that has taken them deep into the Europa League and in contention to finish the Bundesliga in a European qualifying spot. Union SG, for their part, are nine matches unbeaten as they vie for the Belgian title and Europa League glory.

This time last week

Leverkusen's pressure finally told in the first leg. Union SG had gone 1-0 up with Victor Boniface's strike early in the second half. Having fired 15 shots over the course of the game, the hosts were well worth Wirtz's tidy late leveller.

More on those teams

Leverkusen creator-in-chief Florian Wirtz is back in the side, after being used as a substitute against Wolfsburg. Jonathan Tah and Mitchel Bakker are also recalled, but Exequiel Palacios misses out. Adam Hlozek leads the line once more, with Amine Adli on the bench. St. Gilloise are without Siebe Van der Heyden, so Koki Machida comes in at left-back.

Leverkusen starting line-up

Hradecky (c) - Tapsoba, Tah, Hincapie - Frimpong, Andrich, Amiri, Bakker - Diaby, Wirtz - Hlozek

Leverkusen subs

Pentz, Lomb, Kossounou, Azmoun, Demirbay, Adli, Fosu-Mensah, Azhil, Bellarabi

St. Gilloise starting line-up

Moris - Nieuwkoop, Kandouss, Burgess, Machida - Lynen, Teuma (c), Lapoussin - Vertessen, Amani, Boniface

St. Gilloise subs

Imbrechts, Fellous, El Azzouzi, Eckert, Adingra, Terho, Puertas, Sykes, Nilsson, Huygevelde

Bayer en route

Xabi Alonso's players were put through their paces one final time ahead of Thursday's game. The Bundesliga team trained at the BayArena on Wednesday before heading to Brussels by team coach.

"Anticipation is huge"

B04's managing director for sports, Simon Rolfes, has been speaking ahead of the Werkself's meeting against Union SG on Thursday night: "The anticipation is huge," he said. "We have a good starting position but we know how strong our opponents are. It will be intense and close, but we have a lot of motivation."

Wirtz at the ready

Teen sensation Florian Wirtz (yes, amazingly he's still only 19) bagged the crucial equalising goal against Union last week and he will be fresh for the second leg having only featured for 28 minutes against Wolfsburg on Sunday. Despite only returning from a serious knee injury in January, Wirtz has weighed in with four goals and eight assists in 17 games in all competitions in 2023.

B04's away days

Bayer can take heart going into the away leg of their last eight encounter knowing that they won at Monaco in the last round to end their six-match winless run on the road in European competition. The Werkself have now won six of 13 away games in the knockout round of the Europa League.

Counter-attack kings

They're one of Europe's most exciting sides, but just what are the details behind Leverkusen's success?

"Great chance"

Somewhat disappointed not to have left Wolfsburg with three points last Sunday, Xabi Alonso explained: "I always want to win, of course. But today we have to accept the result." Looking ahead to this week, the B04 boss added: "From tomorrow, we'll be fully focused on Thursday. We have a great chance to reach the semi-finals and we want to make the most of it."

Unbeaten run

Thursday's visitors to Belgium extended their unbeaten streak to a lengthy 11 games following a scoreless draw at Wolfsburg on Sunday. B04 have now drawn their last two games after winning their previous seven in all competitions.

Welcome along

The UEFA Europa League quarter-final, second leg excitement starts right here! So settles in as we bring you all the latest as Xabi Alonso's Leverkusen seek a spot in the tournament's last four at the expense of Union SG.

First-leg report

Florian Wirtz secured Bayer Leverkusen a 1-1 draw against Union Saint-Gilloise in their UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg at the BayArena.

Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Saint-Gilloise
Goals: 0-1
Boniface 51' (assist: Teuma), 1-1 Wirtz 82' (assist: Azmoun)

Enjoying a seven-match winning run in all competitions, Leverkusen made a lively start. With just three minutes on the clock, Saint-Gilloise goalkeeper Anthony Moris was forced to save at the feet of Wirtz, who shot wide moments later. The visitors gave as good as they got, though, and had already gone close through Victor Boniface, when Lazare Amani clipped the woodwork from range. Lukas Hradecky saved well from Boniface as the Belgians turned the screw, before the goal frame prevented Ismael Kandouss from heading in a corner. Bayer responded in kind, with Moussa Diaby twice dragging wide either side of a golden opportunity for Piero Hincapie, who failed to hit the target with a header following a mistake by Moris.

Leverkusen were up against it after the restart as Boniface fired Saint-Gilloise ahead. Hradecky had to be alert to stop Yorbe Vertessen going through on goal with Gilloise's next attack, but Bayer rode the storm and managed to wrestle back momentum in the closing stages. Jeremie Frimpong miscued from close range, before Wirtz collected a pass from substitute Sardar Azmoun and drove an unstoppable equaliser into the top corner. Kerem Demirbay shot over and Azmoun tickled the side netting as Leverkusen pushed for a late winner. It wasn't forthcoming, but Xabi Alonso will be quietly confident of getting the result needed in next week's decisive return leg in Belgium.