Bayer Leverkusen crept into the Bundesliga's top four overnight with a 2-0 win over local rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach thanks to goals from Lucas Alario and Julian Brandt, and some Leon Bailey wizardry.
Goals: 1-0 Alario (39'), 2-0 Brandt (90+4')
Bailey was back in the Leverkusen starting XI and clearly keen on making a mark, as he played a part in the hosts' first seven goalscoring opportunities within the first half hour. He was involved in the opening goal too, using his pace to race down the right wing before delivering an inch-perfect cross for Kevin Volland to nod down to Alario, who just had to provide the finish from close range. It was textbook stuff from Heiko Herrlich's men, earning them a deserved lead at the interval.
Alario did not seem to want to settle for just one goal, though, as he continued to lead Leverkusen's charge for a second. Twenty minutes into the second half and he had already taken aim five times – one more than the entire Gladbach team, who were struggling to cope with Leverkusen's intensity. Bailey was withdrawn to a standing ovation, but with Brandt coming on, the hosts maintained their attacking threat and he supplied the icing on the cake from Alario's pass, making it 2-0 at the death.
Watch: Alario reflects on his match-winning display against Gladbach
- Alario scored in back-to-back Bundesliga games for the first time in his career.
- Volland provided an assist for the first time since Matchday 10.
- Only Bayern Munich have picked up more points than Leverkusen, since Heiko Herrlich's men thrashed Gladbach 5-1 on Matchday 9. They also beat their local rivals in the third round of this season's DFB Cup.
- Leverkusen already have more points after 26 matches (44) than they did at the end of last season, when they narrowly avoided a place in the relegation play-offs with 41 points.
- Gladbach captain Lars Stindl has failed to score in his last 14 Bundesliga matches.
- Kramer is a former Leverkusen youth player. He made 28 Bundesliga appearances for his boyhood club, before joining Gladbach on a permanent deal in summer 2016, having previously spent two seasons on loan with the Rhineland club.
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno (c) - L. Bender, Tah, S. Bender, Wendell (Retsos 90+2') - Aranguiz, Havertz (Kohr 85'), Baumgartlinger – Bailey (Brandt 69'), Alario, Volland
Unused subs: Özcan, Henrichs, Bellarabi, Kießling
Absentees: Jedvaj (thigh)
Coach: Heiko Herrlich
Gladbach: Sommer – Jantschke (Cuisance 71'), Ginter, Vestergaard, Elvedi - Grifo, Kramer, Zakaria (Drmic 79'), Hazard - Stindl (c), Bobadilla (Hofmann 64')
Unused subs: Sippel, Egbo, Oxford, Herrmann
Absentees: Benes (hamstring), Doucoure (thigh), Johnson (back), Strobl (knee), Traore, Villalba, Wendt (all thigh)
Coach: Dieter Hecking