Two-goal Nathan Tella as leaders Bayer Leverkusen beat Darmstadt


Nathan Tella scored twice as Bayer Leverkusen won in Darmstadt to defend their unbeaten start to 2023/24 and top spot in the Bundesliga.

Darmstadt 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Goals: 0-1
Tella 33' (assist: Grimaldo), 0-2 Tella 52' (assist: Wirtz)

The Bundesliga's rock-bottom side showed their willingness to take on the league leaders as Gerrit Holtmann sent a shot wide in the opening seconds. Leverkusen soon gained control of possession, but had to be patient against the deep-sitting hosts, who directed the occasional jab at their defence on the break. Adam Hložek had the first real effort from an Alejandro Grimaldo cut-back, dragging his shot just wide. The Spanish creative genius was at his best again as Leverkusen finally carved open the hosts' defence, hitting a delicious cross from the left that Tella headed in at the far post on his first Bundesliga start. The game opened up as a result of the strike. Luca Pfeiffer had a couple of efforts saved on promising Darmstadt attacks, while new loan signing Borja Iglesias and Robert Andrich passed up chances to extend Bayer's lead before the break. 

Leverkusen's second goal came shortly after the restart, however, and from the same source. Having been an unexpected pick at right-back ahead of Jeremie Frimpong, Tella raced forward to meet Florian Wirtz's lay-off from the edge of the box and send a thunderous drive past Marcel Schuhen for his brace. There was no way back by this stage for the hosts, despite their bold efforts, and Leverkusen ventured forward in unhurried fashion with the comfortable lead behind them. With Darmstadt in damage-limitation mode, there were precious few openings for the remainder of the game. Wirtz had the best chance for a third, but rattled the crossbar from the edge of the box as the leaders preserved their two-point advantage at the top of the Bundesliga table ahead of next week's showdown with defending champions Bayern Munich.

Match stats

  • Leverkusen are on a club-record 29 games unbeaten in a single season, beating their previous best run in Bundesliga 2 back in 1979.
  • Bayer have now beaten their points tally at the end of the 2022/23 season of 50, with 52 points 20 games into the current campaign.
  • Grimaldo has been involved in a goal in nine of his 10 away matches this season (with six goals and five assists on his travels).
  • Darmstadt substitute Sebastian Polter made his first appearance after joining the club, and the Lillies are his seventh side in the Bundesliga (after Schalke, Bochum, Union, Mainz, Nuremberg and Wolfsburg)
  • Christoph Zimmermann is yet to win a Bundesliga match after his 10th top-flight appearance.
  • Darmstadt's 13-game winless run is the longest of any Bundesliga team this season - equalling the club's unwanted record streak from 1981/82, when they were relegated. 

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Darmstadt: Schuhen - Bader, Zimmerman, Maglica (Klarer 81') - Holtmann (Polter 66'), Franjić (A. Müller 81'), Holland (c) (Mehlem 67'), Karić - Vilhelmsson (Torsiello 66'), Skarke - Pfeiffer
Unused subs: Brunst, J. Mülller, Kempe, Gjasula
Out: Honsak (calf), Hornby (ankle), Justvan (ill), Manu (ankle), Nürnberger (ankle), Riedel (ankle), Seydel (calf)
Coach: Torsten Lieberknecht 

Leverkusen: Hrádecký (c) - Stanišić, Tah, Hincapié - Tella, Andrich, Xhaka (Tapsoba 88'), Grimaldo - Hložek (Mbamba 90+2'), Wirtz (Hofmann 77') - Iglesias
Unused subs: Kovář, Fosu-Mensah, Frimpong, Puerta, Schick, Adli
Out: Arthur (thigh), Boniface (groin), Kossounou (international duty), Palacios (thigh)
Coach: Xabi Alonso