A Leon Bailey wonder strike was merely a consolation for Bayer Leverkusen, who succumbed to a Max Kruse masterclass at the BayArena on Sunday.
Goals: 0-1 Kruse (13'), 0-2 Rashica (37'), 1-2 Bailey (75'), 1-3 Kruse (90+4')
Kruse had already tested Lukas Hradecky when he collected a sensational through-ball from Johannes Eggestein, burst clear and slotted into the far corner to give Werder a 13th-minute lead. Kevin Volland headed a Karim Bellarabi cross wide for Leverkusen, before Bremen doubled their advantage with eight first-half minutes still to play. Eggestein was the catalyst again, breaking away and feeding Kruse, who turned provider for the in-form Milot Rashica to slam home his third goal in two games with aplomb.
Leverkusen thought they’d reduced the arrears early in the second half, but substitute Kai Havertz’s close-range strike from a corner was ruled out for handball. Jiri Pavlenka pulled off a sensational save to deny Lars Bender, but not before a Nuri Sahin free-kick had rattled the frame of the Bayer goal. Bailey went one better to halve the deficit with a world-class set-piece not too dissimilar to his strike against Bayern Munich earlier in the year, but Bremen dug their heels in and put the result beyond doubt in injury time when Kruse grabbed his second of the afternoon to take his side to within three points of Leverkusen and the top six.
Watch: Bailey: "We lost the game in the first half"
- Bremen are one of two unbeaten teams in the Rückrunde along with Eintracht Frankfurt.
- Werder have found the net in every one of their 26 league games this season, and their last 27 dating back to last season - a club record.
- Kruse has scored eight goals this season (two more than in 2017/18), including four in successive games for the first time since April 2017.
- Rashica has plundered six goals in 2019 - only Andrej Kramaric and Robert Lewandowski have scored more.
- Bailey scored once during the first half of the season, but has four goals in nine outings since the turn of the year.
Leverkusen: Hradecky – L. Bender (c) (Weiser 83'), Tah, Dragovic, Wendell – Baumgartlinger, Aranguiz (Havertz 46') – Bellarabi (Paulinho 46'), Brandt, Bailey - Volland
Unused subs: Özcan, S. Bender, Alario, Kohr
Out: Pohjanpalo (ankle), Retsos (thigh)
Coach: Peter Bosz
Bremen: Pavlenka – Gebre Selassie, Moisander, Friedl, Augustinsson – M. Eggestein, Klaassen (Langkamp 84'), Sahin – J. Eggestein (Bartels 76'), Kruse (c), Rashica (Harnik 65')
Unused subs: Kapino, Bejimo, Möhwald, Sargent
Out: Johannsson (ankle), Osako (match fitness), Pizarro (thigh), Veljkovic (suspended)
Coach: Florian Kohfeldt