Before their Bundesliga season starts next weekend, Bayer Leverkusen travelled to Karlsruher SC for the DFB Pokal. Karlsruhe were hoping the Pokal match would provide a spark to their early season, as they had only picked up four points in their first four 3. Liga matches, but last week’s 2-1 win over Wiesbaden gave the club hope of turning the corner under Marc-Patrick Meister.
Considering the massive upheaval for Die Werkself this summer, it was no surprise that the match gave us Leverkusen debuts for Sven Bender at center back, and Dominik Kohr in midfield. The departures in attack and defense left many cautious about this match and the upcoming season. It was also Heiko Herrlich’s first match in charge. Quite fitting as well, since his first match as a Leverkusen player also came against KSC back in 1989.
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) August 11, 2017
While Leverkusen did start out aggressively, it was the hosts who got the first great chance, but Bernd Leno came up big to keep the match scoreless in the 15th minute. The hosts more than held their own and were able to keep the ball for long stretches of the first half. Whereas Leverkusen were looking to use their talented wide players to create chances, particularly through Bellarabi on the right. Bayer’s best chance came in the 45th minute. After some slick passing Kohr’s low shot skidded past the far post.
The second half saw Leverkusen gain more control of the ball but the wet night caused the pitch to deteriorate and cause many players to lose their footing throughout the match. Herrlich introduced Joel Pohjanpalo in the 66th minute, moving more towards having two strikers and it created problems for the 3. Liga side. In the 70th minute a loose ball fell to Bellarabi and he tried to draw a penalty, but it was rightfully waved off. A through ball from substitute Leon Bailey put Volland 1 on 1 with the keeper, but his shot sailed over the bar in the 78th minute. The hosts chances became fewer as the match moved on. A Wendell yellow card set them up with a dangerous free kick opportunity late, but they couldn’t find a blue shirt in the box to convert. A long-range blast from Kohr had to be touched past the post by Uphoff, before a Leverkusen corner came to nothing and extra time beckoned.
— Jonny Nelson (@Crash22Crash) August 11, 2017
The opener came in the 93rd minute, a Julian Brandt free kick was hit home by Kohr. With the hosts now pressing for a response Bayer double the lead just six minutes later, as Pohjanpalo slotted a low shot into the corner, to keep the momentum going and Leon Bailey added a third shortly before the extra time break. Karlsruhe did get a late chance to reward their fans, as Lorenz was able to volley a shot that Leno bobbled but eventually collected on the goal line.
Player of the match- Dominik Kohr
While many of the returning players improved as the match wore on, Kohr was constantly active and earned his goal. He definitely impressed in his debut and didn’t look out of place next to Kampl. If Kohr can regularly provide these types of appearances for Bayer, Heiko Herrlich will be able to have a better rotation in midfield.
For Karlsruhe they return to the 3. Liga play next weekend with a trip to Fortuna Köln, who have looked quite impressive so far and sit in second place.
Bayer Leverkusen open the Bundesliga season next Friday when they head to Bayern to face the champions.
Karlsruher (4-4-2)- Uphoff; Siebeck, Pisot, Stoll, Çamoglu; Lorenz, Wanitzek (83′ for Hofmann), Bülow, Muslija (96′ for Luibrand); Zawada (71′ for Schleusener), Fink (108′ for Vujinovic)
Bayer Leverkusen (4-2-3-1)- Leno; Henrichs, Tah, S. Bender, Wendell; Kohr, Kampl; Bellarabi (72′ for Brandt), Havertz (66′ for Pohjanpalo), Mehmedi (72′ for Bailey); Volland (105′ for Aranguiz)
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