Bayer Leverkusen are still miles behind in their own expectations this season. The Werkself won their second group match in the Europa League against outsiders AEK Larnaka 4:2 (1:1) by a wide margin, but despite their successfully defended lead in the standings, they once again failed to prove their class.
Under the Bayer Cross, the air for coach Heiko Herrlich becomes thinner and thinner after this lifeless performance against Cyprus Cup winner. If the 46-year-old leaves the SC Freiburg league empty-handed with the self-proclaimed Champions League aspirant on Sunday (1.30 p.m./Eurosport), the ex-professional will be thrown out during the international break. In Ralph Hasenhüttl (most recently RB Leipzig) a successor is supposedly already in the starting blocks.
AEK captain Ivan Trickovski brought the underdog surprisingly into the lead in the 25th minute. But Kai Havertz (44.) with his third goal of the season in the current competition, Lucas Alario with a double pack (49. and 88.) and Julian Brandt (90.+2) saved Bayer from embarrassment despite the second guest goal by Dimitris Raspas (90.+1). Five days after the 2:4 in the championship against Borussia Dortmund, Bayer had to put up with the whistles of his own supporters again before the break, however, because the home team again revealed many shortcomings against the blatant outsider.
Lucas Alario Honours
- Copa Libertadores: 2015
- Suruga Bank Championship: 2015
- Recopa Sudamericana: 2016
- Copa Argentina: 2016, 2017
- Superclásico de las Américas: 2017
„We want to ensure clear conditions as quickly as possible in the group phase,“ said Leverkusen’s Sports Director Rudi Völler before the match, thus clearly indicating the direction of march for Herrlich and his team. But in many scenes the Bayer pros seemed tense and insecure.
Against the underdog, Herrlich had changed his starting eleven to three positions compared to the duel with the BVB. For the international players Jonathan Tah and Brandt as well as Alario Aleksandar Dragovic, Leon Bailey and Karim Bellarabi, who was locked in the league, joined the team.
In front of 23,354 spectators in the by far not sold out BayArena, Lars Bender already had the lead on his foot in the fifth minute, nine minutes later the captain had bad luck with a post shot. Afterwards the guests held however well and use a gross error in the Bayer Defensive for the guidance by their Topstar Trickovski. After Bayer had been denied a penalty shot a little later after a clear foul on Havertz in the AEK penalty area, they managed to equalize before the break. Shooting star Havertz, who had already scored twice at Ludogorets Razgrad at the 3-2 European League opener in Bulgaria, made use of Bellarabi’s preliminary work.
After the break, Bayer took command and took the lead 2-1 early on through Alario, who had just been substituted. The Cypriots, however, kept up and had the chance to equal the score. On the other hand, Havertz could have made everything clear in the 64th minute. Alario’s second goal, however, eliminated the last doubts about Leverkusen’s victory in the final stages, before Raspas and Brandt scored more goals. To know more about Casino Action, read them here.