Bayer returns to winning ways under Lewandowski, moves back to fourth place
Bayer Leverkusen got back to winning ways under their new coach Sascha Lewandowski, moving back up to fourth in the Bundesliga thanks to a 2-1 win over Hertha Berlin on Sunday.
Stefan Kiessling’s goal after 39 seconds gave Leverkusen a dream start in their first game since Sami Hyypia was shown the door last weekend.
Young striker Julian Brandt added a second before Sandro Wagner pulled a goal back.
Leverkusen’s lead was rarely in danger, though, as they held on for only their second win in 10 games to return to fourth in the table, and get back on course for a place in the Champions League next season.
Lewandowski’s reign could hardly have got off to a better start when Kiessling met Giulio Donati’s cross from the right to head the hosts in front after just 39 seconds.
It was the confidence boost Leverkusen so dearly needed, and they proceeded to put Berlin under intense pressure, Gonzalo Castro going close with a volley from the edge of the area.
Sebastian Boenisch almost added a second when he rattled the crossbar with Thomas Kraft well beaten.
The woodwork was then struck at the other end by Anis Ben-Hatira before Leverkusen’s 17-year-old forward Brandt added a second.
He latched onto Heung-Min Son’s cross to lob Kraft in the 24th minute.
Berlin pulled a goal back, although there was more than a hint of offside as Wagner got his head to Tolga Cigerci’s free-kick to deflect the ball into the far corner.
A more powerful header by Wagner missed the target moments later, but aside from a Sami Allagui effort in the second half, that was as close as Jos Luhukay’s men came to equalising.
Leverkusen had chances to seal victory with a third, but it was ultimately not required as they picked up three points to move back above Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga.
Augsburg’s outside hopes of qualifying for Europe next season were effectively ended by Hoffenheim, who moved to within two points of the Bavarians in the Bundesliga table with a 2-0 victory on Sunday.
Sejad Salihovic and Jannik Vestergaard both scored for Markus Gisdol’s men, who had goalkeeper Jens Grahl to thank for keeping only their second clean sheet of the season.
Grahl kept Markus Weinzierl’s men at bay with numerous saves and earned as much of the credit for the win as Hoffenheim’s goalscorers. There was nothing he could do to stop Sascha Molders in the second minute, but the post came to Hoffenheim’s rescue on that occasion.
Eugen Polanski then wasted Hoffenheim’s first chance when he was clean through on goal, but wasted too much time before going to ground, appealing for a penalty. Hoffenheim took the lead in the 19th minute when their set-piece specialist Salihovic did what he does best.
He has certainly delivered more potent free-kicks than this one, but Marwin Hitz was still unable to keep it out as it crept inside the post which was supposed to be covered by the Augsburg keeper’s wall. Hoffenheim doubled their lead with Vestergaard’s first goal of season.