Leverkusen (AP) – After a successful football evening for Bayer Leverkusen, match winner Leon Bailey was already aiming for the following goals.
“Being first in the group is always good. It gives us a good chance to continue. We want to do some big things this year,” said the striker. With his two goals in the 8th and 32nd minutes, the Jamaican had laid the foundation for Leverkusens 4-0 (2-0) home win in the Europa League against Slavia Prague and a goal-scoring record.
Runner-up in the Bundesliga celebrated first in Group C thanks to success against the Czech champions, who also qualified for the knockout round, and thus the possibility of a supposedly easier fate in the next round in February. “If you win 4-0 against your direct rivals and are group winner, then you are satisfied,” said coach Peter Bosz. And further: “But I am happy with the whole group stage.”
In addition, Leverkusen managed to save energy for the exhausting last weeks of the year in the race, which was decided early on. Bayer has now earned 4.35 million euros from the UEFA prize pool in the preliminary round.
In addition, Leverkusen scored more goals than any other Bundesliga club in the group stage of the competition, which was introduced in 2009. With a total of 21 goals, the Werkself beat the previous record set by Werder Bremen (2009/10) and Eintracht Frankfurt (2018/19) with three. It was not quite enough for SSC Napoli’s international record with 22 goals from the 2015/16 season.
That was also due to the 0: 1 in the first leg in Prague, Bayer’s only defeat in 17 competitive games this season. Bailey, who has already scored five times in the current competition, as Moussa Diaby (59th) and Karim Bellarabi (90th + 1) provided a successful revenge. “It was a perfect night. For the fans, for the staff, for the young players who made their debut. It was a fun game to watch, we are group winners, you can’t ask for more,” said Bailey.
Niklas Lomb in particular was delighted that Leverkusen did not concede a goal. The 27-year-old was allowed to guard the goal for the saved regular goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky, making his second appearance eight years and four days after his first competitive game for the Bayer pros.
Just like Hradecky, Bayer coach Peter Bosz also allowed the younger Florian Wirtz (17), who wrote an exam on the morning of the match day, to take a break. But still Leverkusen took the game and was rewarded early on by Bailey. After 26 minutes it should have been 2-0, but the Greek referee Tasos Sidiropoulos refused to acknowledge Daley Sinkgraven’s goal. The Dutchman, for whom it would have been the first goal in the 27th European Cup match, was clearly not offside, but the video evidence is not yet in use in the preliminary round of the Europa League.
Five minutes later, Bailey hit again – and this time the goal was scored. The Jamaican hit the post after a header from Patrik Schick. The Czech would have liked to score against Slavia. Born in Prague, he was raised in his youth by arch-rival Sparta Prague. Since there are more important things, Bosz Schick and Bailey switched to reserve during half time. The game was more balanced now, but Bayer’s victory was never in jeopardy. In the last fifteen minutes, Emrehan Gedikli (17), Samed Onur and Cem Türkmen (both 18) had three teenagers of their own offspring on the field.