November 19, 2017

Unfathomable fall

 Bayer Leverkusen’s incredible comeback in the second half against Borussia Mönchengladbach was a fierce slap to the face. After Johnson’s opening goal and a great first half, the match ended in a debacle. Many supporters of the Fohlenelf started leaving the Borussia Park before the final whistle. The first time for a long time.

Dieter Hecking, who was missing a number of long-term injuries, had to do without the former Leverkusener Christoph Kramer. The midfielder had a thigh injury during the training and was replaced by the 18-year-old Michael Cuisance, otherwise the starting line-up remained unchanged compared to the one against Werder Bremen last week.

The Borussen had the better start in the 71st league match of both teams and developed field advantages from the beginning. Borussia Mönchengladbach seemed on the right track. The first 45 minutes against Leverkusen were strong, Gladbach was dominant, played quickly and partly enthusiastically forward and were already in lead after the 7th minute. Thorgan Hazard crossed the ball from the right field to the second post, where Johnson scored unstoppable for Leno the opening goal, 1:0 with easy and fast play.

The Fohlenelf dominated the events in the following minutes. However, Borussia Mönchengladbach missed to score the important second goal at an early stage. Hazard had the 2:0 on the foot in the 16th minute, but failed from three meters to score, because he placed the ball exactly on the chest of Leno. Precision is key for a victory in the Bundesliga, but the Fohlenelf had to learn it the hard way last saturday.

Shortly thereafter, the Werkself appeared dangerously for the first time in the Gladbacher penalty area, but with no harm in the end. Bayer Leverkusen was better in the game, both teams worked in the midfield, but the Borussen remained superior. They wasted thoughtlessly the next big chances. In the 38th minute Wendt was in the penalty area and hesitated a little too long, so that Retsos could still be in the way of his shot at the very last moment and block the ball to the corner.

After that there was a regular shooting in the Bayer penalty area, but somehow a guest player still got a foot in between. Or the Borussen lacked precision at the end of a great passing, as in the 43rd minute. Elvedi passed the ball from the right into the penalty area after a superb combination, where Raffael missed the ball and it rolled out. Bayer Leverkusen considered itself very lucky not to be behind with 2 or more goals at the end of the first half.

Immediately after the restart Wendt missed to take a shoot at the end of an nice attack, and thus the opportunity to give the game the decisive direction. However, what happened from this moment on with all players of Borussia Mönchengladbach is difficult to explain. The Werkself managed to do the impossible and they came back with an exceptional precision and left the Borussia Park as the great winner with a 5:1 victory.

The catch-up in the 48th minute, when Havertz extended a corner and Sven Bender pressed the ball from a short distance to the equalizer across the line. Then Leverkusen launched three successful counterattacks with the same pattern within a very short time. Ball loss from Stindl in the forward move, Bailey scores the 1:2 in the 59th minute. Ball loss from Cuisance in forward move, Brandt scores 1:3 in the 61st minute. Ball loss from Elvedi in the forward move, Volland scores the 1:4 in the 69th minute.

It was unbelievable how the Gladbacher lost the thread and were played off. The spectators saw at least one or two class differences between their team and the Werkself. The Fohlenelf was unable to stabilize the defence and all the leaders were silent in that moment of great need. Nobody can blame the youngsters Cuisance or Zakaria for being inexperienced and needing support and guidance in situations like this. But where were Sommer, Ginter, Vestergaard, Wendt, Johnson, Stindl and Raffael? At the latest after the 1:2 the experienced players should have kept a cool head. In a situation like this leaders need to calm the game, regain control over the ball circulation, and bring the risky and naively play of the team to an end.

To make the humiliation perfect, Bayer Leverkusen scored a fifth goal in the second half. Wendt let Brandt pull in a counterattack, Pohjanpalo netted in the 1:5 from the middle of the box without much hassle in the 81st minute. With this bitter defeat the winning streak came to a quick end.

Gladbach’s sports director Max Eberl congratulated his colleague Rudi Völler on a curious and spectacular victory. “They have played with merciless efficiency and their fast-paced people were unstoppable for us,” commented Eberl the defeat against Bayer Leverkusen. The second strong seasonal defeat after the 1:6 against Borussia Dortmund caused especially the losers head shaking. “We played the best first half of the season,” said Borussen coach Dieter Hecking. But a great first half is not enough.

After this 1:5 defeat Borussia Mönchengladbach is a single big question mark. The cup game on Tuesday in Düsseldorf is suddenly under a completely different star, the upcoming Bundesliga match in Hoffenheim as well. Tasks, which one actually wanted to tackle with backwind and wide chest, after this catastrophic second half-time suddenly become high risk games.
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Erkán Karakoyunlu

Erkan is a Mönchengladbach-born, Cologne-based football enthusiast with a great obsession for his hometown club 'Gladbach. After studying communication design, concept design, East Asian studies, and philosophy he gained experience in the entertainment industry and is trying to put his thoughts about Fussball into words. He is also avid for design, art, culture, tech and video games. Follow him on Twitter at @fruechtegott.

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