Bayer Leverkusen cannot currently be beaten on artificial turf either: in unusual pitch conditions and constant rain, the B team of the Bundesliga table leaders beat Norwegian double winners Molde FK 2-1 (2-0) on the anniversary of coach Xabi Alonso.

With six points from two group games, last year’s semi-finalists remain on course for the knockout round. With the eighth win in the ninth competitive game with a score of 34:7, Leverkusen also celebrated a successful dress rehearsal for the derby on Sunday against 1. FC Köln.

“It wasn’t a good game for us in the second half, but we won,” said national player Jonas Hofmann: “We would have liked to have played the third one to close the bag earlier.”

Alonso coached Bayer for a year

Alonso took over Bayer on October 5, 2022 as the successor to Gerardo Seoane in 17th place in the Bundesliga. Thursday’s win was the 25th in 46 competitive games. The goals in the pretty arena directly on the Moldefjord were scored in a very confident first half by Jeremie Frimpong (14th) and new signing Nathan Tella with his first goal in a Bayer jersey (18th). In a weaker second half, Bayer deservedly conceded the goal from Emil Breivik (87th).

Alonso had changed his regular formation, which had played in five of six Bundesliga games, to seven positions. As in the 4-0 win against the Swedish double winners Häcken BK, when Alonso made five changes at the start, this did not have a negative effect.

Molde stood very deep from the start, leaving Bayer the ball and the initiative. But the Werkself took advantage of their first shot on goal. Frimpong, one of only four players remaining in the team, won the ball from Martin Ellingsen in the opponent’s penalty area and scored after a quick one-two with Amine Adli. And the second shot on goal was also there when Tella scored from a tight angle after Adam Hlozek’s lay-off. Alonso, who had followed the first goal rather soberly, celebrated the second goal with abandon. Because he knew that the game didn’t even seem to be over halfway through the first half.

All doubts would have been eliminated if Adli had made it 0-3 after Tella’s through ball, but he lobbed the ball just wide (38′). He collided with Molde keeper Jacob Karlström, who then had to be replaced. So Molde looked for his chance after the break and played more courageously forward. Meanwhile, Leverkusen did far too little. And so Matej Kovar, who, like against Häcken, represented captain Lukas Hradecky in goal, was also able to excel in a chance from Magnus Eikrem (59th).

Eric Kitolano hit the outside post (76th). Eriksen’s goal punished Bayer’s negligence and ensured a heated final phase. Substitute Jonas Hofmann could have calmed things down, but he hit the post in the third minute of added time.

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