Leverkusen - Perhaps it was the manner of the defeat that hurt the most: a swift, superbly-executed goal on the counter-attack and an exquisite postage stamp free-kick from a set-piece expert. Only this time, Bayer 04 Leverkusen were not the authors of such spectacles but rather the recipients.
Salt in the wound
Indeed, on Sunday Roger Schmidt’s Werkself were well and truly out-Leverkusened by SV Werder Bremen, who are now the only Bundesliga side to have a perfect record in the Rückrunde thanks a their 2-1 victory at the Weser-Stadion.
Bayer were undone by an energetic and aggressive home side on an unhappy afternoon which was compounded by one-match suspensions for defenders Wendell and Ömer Toprak, as well as having Schmidt sent to the stands. “We knew it’d be a difficult game as Bremen are in good shape,” said the 47-year-old head coach. “We had the game under control in the first half but then they had a very good counter-attack and we lost our way a bit.”
A stunning Zlatko Junuzovic free-kick, which Leverkusen’s in-house dead-ball specialist Hakan Calhanoglu will surely have secretly admired, put the hosts even further ahead shortly before the half-hour mark as Bremen dominated, but the tide did appear to have turned in the visitors’ favour shortly before the break when Calhanoglu headed home from close range.
'We dozed off'
Leverkusen were the better side after the interval and went agonisingly close to grabbing an equaliser when Stefan Kießling beat Raphael Wolf with a close-range flick of the boot, only to see it come back off the post. “We created some great chances after the break but you have to score goals in football,” rued Schmidt. “We went unrewarded for our efforts.”
Consequently, there were some long faces in the Leverkusen camp in the mixed zone afterwards. “We’re very disappointed because we had high hopes coming into this game and really wanted to win,” said captain Lars Bender. “We conceded a stupid [first] goal but we’re more frustrated by the fact that we played so well in the second half but didn’t even come away with a point.” Team-mate Julian Brandt was even blunter in his analysis: “We dozed off in the first half so we’ve only got ourselves to blame for the loss.”
The reverse sent Leverkusen down to a season-low ranking of sixth in the table, two points adrift of FC Schalke 04 in third place and nine behind next week’s opponents VfL Wolfsburg, who proved their own ability to ruthlessly pick Bayer apart with a 4-1 thrashing on Matchday 4.
“We have to have the belief that we’re going to score,” said striker Josip Drmic, looking ahead to that mouthwatering encounter at the BayArena on Saturday afternoon that will also see Wolfsburg’s new signing Andre Schürrle return to his former club. “Now we have to forget about the first half [against Bremen] and we need to do more to show we’re better than our opponents.”