Bayer Leverkusen grabbed an unimpressive 1-0 away victory against the Bundesliga’s cellar dwellers Freiburg.
Leverkusen’s coach Robin Dutt has recently been critisized for the weak performances of his team in the Bundesliga. Going into tonight’s match, his side had failed to keep a clean sheet for the last six matches in a row. Another point of contention for the Leverkusen faithful this year have been Dutt’s ever changing line ups. The former Freiburg coach made no efforts to please those people, by putting Gonzalo Castro in holding midfield alongside Lars Bender, and bringing on Erdan Derdiyok for Stefan Kiessling. Leverkusen had won their last three matches in Freiburg however, making the Badenova Stadium one of their favorite arenas in Germany.
Marcus Sorg had even mores surprises in store for the spectators who had found their way to the Badenova Stadium. The coach gave Garra Dembélé his first start of the season, and chose to play in a 4-4-2 formation, instead of his usual 4-2-3-1 formation.
SC Freiburg: Baumann – Hinkel, Barth, Krmas, Bastians – Flum, Schuster – Putsilia, Rosenthal – Dembélé, Cissé
Bayer 04 Leverkusen: Leno – Schwaab, Friedrich, Toprak, Kadlec – Bender, Castro – Sam, Ballack, Schürle – Derdiyok
First half: Freiburg concede after 104 seconds
The spectators had just taken their seats when Freiburg conceded the first corner kick of the match. Leverkusen’s left back Michael Kadlec brought in the ball from the left hand side, and found the head of Ömar Troprak who headed the ball closer towards the goal, where Manuel Friedrich managed to find Michael Ballack three meters in front of the goal. The former German international had no problems putting the ball in the net from short distance, scoring his first goal in the Bundesliga since May 2006.
Freiburg found their feet surprisingly quick after they had conceded the first goal of the match. Jan Rosenthal, who had replaced Cedric Makiadi in the starting line up, got a chance at shot from 15 meters after 5 minutes.
Freiburg’s right hand side in particular, with Putsilia and Hinkel, managed to create danger going forward in the following minutes. The otherwise more attacking Schuster had been instructed to stay in a holding midfield role, while Putislia, Flum and Rosenthal initiated attacks.
Johannes Flum missed the goal narrowly with a shot in the 22nd minute. Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno didn’t manage to keep hold off of two shots from distance in the 28th and 37th minute. Both times the keeper managed to get to the ball just in front of one of the Freiburg strikers.
Freiburg’s best chance came after Putsilia put in a cross from the right hand side behind the Leverkusen, finding Cissé 7 meters in front of goal. The Senagalese striker volleyed the ball onto the post. Two minutes later Sidney Sam almost made it 2-0 for Leverkusen when Andreas Hinkel slipped, but the former Hamburg man missed the goal narrowly from 15 meters. Jan Rosenthal had the last chance of the half after a cross from Bastians, but his header missed the goal by inches.
Second half: Freiburg try their best while Leverkusen defend
Leverkusen was also happy to sit back defending their lead from the start of the second half. Neither side managed to create any noteworthy chances in the beginning of the second half. Robin Dutt took off Michael Ballack after 65 minutes for Simon Rolfes, while Marcus Sorg decided to take off Dembélé and bring on Stefan Reisinger in the 68th minute.
One minute later a nice through ball by Johannes Flum found Cissé in the box, the striker took the ball on his chest, turned around 180 degrees and volleyed the ball towards the goal only missing it by a hairwidth. This was the best chance of the second half. Oliver Barth headed the ball right into the arms of Bernd Leno after a corner kick in the 86th minute. Freiburg didn’t manage to penetrate the Leverkusen defense in the second half, even though Robin Dutt’s team seemed to have one of its weaker days.
Conclusion: Tough weeks ahead for Freiburg
Freiburg didn’t get any points from their last home match against a weak Hamburg side. This time around the Breisgau Brazilians managed to create 7 chances while only allowing two chances for their opponents. It was Freiburg’s weakness after set pieces that caused them this loss. Furthermore, one could argue that the team is relying too much on Papiss Demba Cissé, and that their weak finishing tonight cost them all three points. However, their defense deserves a lot of credit for taking out André Schürrle and Sidney Sam, who didn’t manage to create many chances in front of their goal. The team’s defending was better for 88 minutes than it has been for the rest of the season. Freiburg are the team that has conceded the most goals in the league after set pieces and crosses. Marcus Sorg has to work on that with his team.
Leverkusen have on their hand managed to stay in the top half of the table. The weekend will show if they can progress in the table, which isn’t unlikely considering that many of their fellow travellers from the top half of the table have tough matches coming up on Saturday and Sunday.
Freiburg have Nürnberg, Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim coming up in their next three matches. Sorg’s team is at this point in desperate need to get something from all this matches if they don’t want to face an uphill battle going into the spring season(Rückrund) of the Bundesliga. Duffner might at this point not be panicking, but he should be worried about his team’s future in the top flight.
Man of the match: Robin Dutt
The Bayer coach managed to give many players a break, using them only sparingly against what arguably is the weakest side in the league at the moment. 1-0 isn’t the prettiest of outcomes, and Leverkusen didn’t manage to keep Freiburg entirely out during the course of the 90 minutes in the Badenova Stadium, but nobody is going to ask where the three points came from at the end of the season. Dutt and his team can now focus on the important Champions League match they have coming up against Valencia.
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