Leon Bailey had a hand in Bayer Leverkusen's goal as Lucas Alario's first-half header proved enough for Die Werkself to beat Mainz on Saturday and record their first win of the 2020/21 Bundesliga season.
Ahead of Thursday's UEFA Europa League start against Nice, Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz might have been tempted to look ahead. But with his side winless in their opening three league games, his focus was on improving that record, especially against a Mainz side yet to pick up a point this season. The Dutchman named a strong starting XI that included — for the first time this season — Leon Bailey. The Jamaica international nearly rewarded his boss' faith with an early goal, but his instant lobbed return to Robin Zentner's poor punch sailed just wide of the empty net. Jeremiah St. Juste's brave block means we'll never know just how sorely Daley Sinkgraven's fierce volley would have tested Zentner. The German goalkeeper found Alario's close-range header too hot to handle, and though he clawed the ball back, it had already crossed the line to give the Argentine forward his first Bundesliga goal — and corner-kick taker Bailey his first assist — of the season.
Nadiem Amiri shot straight at Zentner from an Alario knockdown early in the second half as Leverkusen sought to make life more comfortable for themselves, and Alario headed straight at the Mainz keeper with the visitors dominant. They might have lost their grip on the game had Edmond Tapsoba's red card 12 minutes from time stood, but the Burkina Faso international avoided an early bath as the man he had brought down, Karim Onisiwo, had strayed offside before bursting through on goal.
- Leverkusen picked up their first win of the season after drawing their opening three matches. They have never gone their opening four fixtures of a season without a win.
- Bosz has won all four of his Bundesliga meetings with Mainz to date. Last season’s 5-1 success at the Opel Arena was his biggest away win as a Bundesliga coach.
- Mainz have lost their opening four fixtures for the first time - and only the second time in club history - since they were coached by Jürgen Klopp in 2005/06.
- Mainz's interim coach Jan-Moritz Lichte worked under Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski as Leverkusen’s assistant coach between July 2012 and April 2014.
- Robin Quaison and Jean-Philippe Mateta remain Mainz’s only two Bundesliga goalscorers so far this season, with one each. Quaison needs three more to tie Yunus Malli as the club’s all-time leading Bundesliga marksman on 29.
Watch: Alario: “We’d be working on that corner routine”
Mainz: Zentner - St. Juste, Kilian, Niakhate, Brosinski - Kunde (Quaison 58'), Latza (c) (Nebel 76') - Öztunali (Onisiwo 69'), Boetius, Burkardt (Edmilson 58') - Mateta (Ji 76')
Unused subs: Dahmen, Ji, Mwene, Nebel, Barreiro Martins, Hack
Coach: Jan-Moritz Lichte
Leverkusen: Hradecky - L. Bender, S.Bender, Tapsoba, Sinkgraven - Aranguiz (c) (Baumgartlinger 46') - Bailey (Bellarabi 69'), Amiri, Demirbay (Palacios 69'), Diaby - Alario
Unused subs: Lomb, Tah, Dragovic, Wendell, Weiser, Gedikli
Out: Arias (ankle), Paulinho (knee), Schick (thigh), Wirtz (abdominals), Jedvaj (ill)
Coach: Peter Bosz