Chicharito hat trick lifts Leverkusen to big win over Gladbach
Mexico’s Javier Hernandez recorded his first-ever club hat-trick as Bayer Leverkusen put Borussia Monchengladbach to the sword in a 5-0 demolition of the league’s form team.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker has 15 goals in his last 12 matches for Leverkusen and nine league strikes in his last seven appearances. While Chicharito was in devastating form, Stefan Kiessling ended his 13-game barren run in front of goal with an impressive double.
The fact that Leverkusen succumbed Andre Schubert and Borussia Monchengladbach to their first league defeat in 10 matches will be satisfying for Roger Schmidt whose side ‘tragically’ bowed out of the Champions League on Wednesday.
In the Bundesliga, Leverkusen has been well off the boil for months. Schmidt’s side had converted just 36% of clear chances, which is 20% below the league average. The onus has been on Hernandez to find the net - he has scored seven of Leverkusen’s last 10 league goals.
On Saturday evening, he was given a strike-partner to share the load in the shape of 31-year-old Kiessling, the only change from the 1-1 draw at home to Barcelona.
Hernandez was unfortunate perhaps not to get a spot kick on four minutes with Leverkusen boasting around 70% of the possession. After nine minutes, Karim Bellarabi linked with Kevin Kampl and Wendell but the winger, whose finishing was off in midweek, couldn’t beat Yann Sommer.
Indeed, it turned out to be Kiessling who would grab the opener. Schmidt’s luck in selections and tweaks to the team have come up short this season, but the towering German striker headed in emphatically from Roberto Hillbert’s cross on 29 minutes to pay back the faith in his coach.
Monchengladbach seemed off-the-pace in the first half with Fabian Johnson injured and Raffael on the bench – the Brazilian striker would be one of two changes at the break. Things have been plain-sailing for Andre Schubert since replacing Lucien Favre: the Foals were unbeaten in 10 and had racked up 26 points in the process – more than any other league side in the last 10 matches.
The ship was rocked ever so slightly in midweek with a defeat at Manchester City, but Gladbach had little to be ashamed about it. The week earlier, the Foals had beaten Bayern Munich 3-1. However, there was little to be excited about as the service to Josip Drmic wasn’t particularly inviting for the Swiss striker.
Bellarabi should have doubled the home side’s lead on 33 minutes before Hakan Calhanoglu was inches away from another spectacular free kick effort on 41 minutes. Bellarabi threatened once more after the break, missing one-on-one with Sommer on 47 minutes.
Raffael, one of those changes at the break, powered the Foals back into contention, striking the post from a free kick of his own. The 30-year-old was a favorite of former coach Favre whom he worked under at three clubs. Since Schubert has taken the reins, Raffael has scored eight goals and assisted nine in 15 outings.
Less than a minute after Gladbach hit the woodwork, Bellarabi passed up another great chance, as did Kiessling on the hour mark. In midweek, Leverkusen was similarly profligate in front of goal; one more goal would have been enough to qualify ahead of Roma. However, this time, Chicharito had his shooting boots on and finished off a tremendous team move on 63 minutes, his 15th in 20 competitive matches for Leverkusen.
Kiessling thundered home Calhanoglu’s corner kick on 65 minutes, his 140th Bundesliga goal, before Hernandez stole the show to send the home supporters into raptures. On 75 minutes, he turned sharply on the edge of the box and then smashed the ball past Sommer from 25 yards. Less than 60 seconds later, Bellarabi drew the ball back and Hernandez tapped in his hat trick from six yards out. The Mexican – whose only other hat trick came against El Salvador in the Gold Cup – was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by Admir Mehmedi on 79 minutes.
With three points, Leverkusen jump above Schalke on goal difference into seventh and are level on points with Mainz. Gladbach drop out of the top-four with a poorer goal difference than Wolfsburg who drew 1-1 with Hamburg earlier. Fifth-place Foals are three points off third and round off the first half of the season against Darmstadt next Sunday.