The star of the show was undoubtedly Gonzalo Castro (r.), who was inspirational in helping Leverkusen to a fifth consecutive victory
The star of the show was undoubtedly Gonzalo Castro (r.), who was inspirational in helping Leverkusen to a fifth consecutive victory

Castro-inspired Leverkusen down sorry Hamburg

Leverkusen - Bayer 04 Leverkusen kept their UEFA Champions League qualifying hopes alive with a dominant display to defeat struggling Hamburger SV 4-0 on Saturday afternoon.

Djourou howler

Gonzalo Castro set the Werskelf on their way to a fifth consecutive Bundesliga victory early on and was involved in all four of the hosts’ goals, scoring again in the second half and creating two for Stefan Kießling.

New Hamburg coach Peter Knäbel only made one significant change to the visitors’ line-up in his first game in charge, bringing in former Germany No1 Rene Adler in place of Jaroslav Drobny. Yet despite the prolonged period during the international break to iron out mistakes, familiar failings crept into HSV’s game.

They were punished as early as the seventh minute when Johan Djourou’s sloppy pass on the halfway line went straight to Karim Bellarabi, whose pace easily took him past Heiko Westermann and allowed him to bear down on goal unchallenged. Once in the penalty area, the 24-year-old squared the ball past Adler to Castro, who slotted his first goal of the season into an empty net.

Kießling double

Hamburg had no reply to Leverkusen’s aggression and pace going forward, and failed to seriously test home keeper Bernd Leno at all in the first half. With the flow of the game directed entirely at the Hamburg goal, it was no surprise when the hosts deservedly extended their lead shortly before the break, Kießling executing a superb diving header to finish off Castro’s first-time cross from the right.

The match continued in the same vein after the interval, with Roger Schmidt’s Leverkusen pressing their visitors high up the pitch and forcing them into mistakes. Hamburg left-back Matthias Ostrzolek was the next to succumb to the pressure, failing to clear deep in his own half and allowing Lars Bender to dart into the box and pull back for Castro. The midfielder’s shot was blocked by Adler, but Kießling was on hand to poke home the rebound.

Castro again

Leverkusen almost scored a carbon-copy of that goal moments later when Brandt robbed Dennis Diekmeier on the opposite flank and drove forward to the byline, but Castro failed to convert his cut-back. The 27-year-old made amends shortly afterwards, however, stroking in from 11 yards after good work from Bellarabi.

Hamburg were outplayed in every position and rarely caused the home back four to break a sweat. Even more worryingly for Knäbel, whose side are now looking even more nervously over their shoulders at the automatic relegation places, is that the scoreline could have been even greater as the visiting defence was seemingly ripped apart at will. On this form, Leverkusen will take some stopping in the season run-in.

Line-ups and statistics

Jon Stockitt