New captain Havertz helps Leverkusen close on Bundesliga top four

BERLIN (AFP) – Kai Havertz starred in his first match wearing the Bayer Leverkusen captain’s armband as his side beat Augsburg 2-0 at the BayArena to edge closer to the Bundesliga top four last Sunday.

The win takes Leverkusen up to fifth, level on points with fourth-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach who have a game in hand.

German international Havertz, widely linked with a possible move to Premier League leaders Liverpool at the end of the season, assisted one goal and created several other chances.

Augsburg went close in the opening stages, with Florian Niederlechner heading just wide in the 18th minute.

It was Leverkusen however who would score first, with Moussa Diaby taking advantage of an excellent Havertz assist in the 25th minute to score his third goal of 2020.

“He set me up beautifully,” Diaby said

From there on, Leverkusen took the initiative, dominating possession and territory.

Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz and Augsburg’s Ohis Felix Uduokha challenge for the ball. PHOTO: AP

They almost doubled their lead in the 53rd minute after another expert pass from Havertz put the ball on a platter for Mitchell Weiser, but the former Bayern winger was unable to control it.

The hosts did not have to wait long to get on the scoresheet again, however, with Nadiem Amiri scoring a stunning solo goal to make it two.

After gathering possession in the Augsburg half, Amiri ran past several defenders before firing the ball into the bottom corner of the net to chalk up his first goal for Leverkusen.

Havertz was substituted in the 84th minute to rapturous applause.

Despite the win, Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz said there was still plenty to work on.

“We played back too slowly and too much. When we played faster, our individual quality made us directly dangerous,” he explained. “We made so many mistakes that it almost became exciting again.” Augsburg coach Martin Schmidt lamented his side’s peformance.

“It was the game we expected. We took risks but unfortunately it was too little.”

Later on Sunday, a brace from Renato Steffen helped Wolfsburg thump Mainz 4-0 at the Volks-wagen Arena.

The Wolves have racked up 10 points from a possible 12 to start 2020 – the second-best in the Bundesliga after Bayern Munich – scoring 12 goals in the process.

Josip Brekalo broke the deadlock in the 21st minute with a stunning strike from outside the box.

The strike ignited the home side, who went close again through Brekalo just two minutes later.

The visitors showed some fight to end the second half, but Steffen broke the resistance with a simple header in the 45th minute to make the score 2-0.

Yannick Gerhardt added a third for the home side, and his first of the season, in the 49th minute.