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Cautiously optimistic Genk were defeated on their first away trip in the Champions League, after being outclassed in an efficient Leverkusen performance. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Genk, providing a stern test for the perennial German runners-up.
Both teams struggled to find their rhythm in the opening exchanges at the BayArena, as Leverkusen took their time to build from the back. Genk sensing an opportunity were looking dangerous on the counter, as Been enforced a strict no frills 4-4-2 policy, creating a barrier in front of the central defenders. Thomas Buffel was effective on the right, rushing forward often to provide support
The earliest chance fell to André Schürrle who skied his shot well into the stand. Genk’s well drilled unit looked to be coping well as Leverkusen followed the old Beastie Boys adage – let it flow, let yourself go, slow and low that is the tempo. Yet it wasn’t long before the problems arose, Sidney Sam repeatedly finding space on the right as Daniel Pudil failed to deal with him. Sam was let down by his fellow attacking players in the infancy. Genk had their chances, mainly from corners as Leverkusen didn’t mark at the back post with Simaeys and Ogunjimi heading over. Both defences were equally creaky, making unecessary errors.
Leverkusen improved as the game went along, with their neat, crisp passing and they took a deserved lead. Stefan Kießling was put through the centre and Nadson failed to track or tackle him. The ball fell to Lars Bender on the right, who expertly finished, placing the ball through the stranded defenders leaving Lazlo Koteles no chance to see it.
Perhaps Genk were lulled into a false sense of security by the slowness and openness. Racing had a glorious chance in the middle of the half as young loanee keeper Bernd Leno gave Vossen the ball on a silver plate. The Belgian international went wider and attempted to square to Ogunjimi, who didn’t allow the angle. Leno thanked his defenders for intervening. All in all, Genk’s chances were at a premium in the first period, yet they didn’t disappoint with their play. Leverkusen may have dominated the play (67% possession) but weren’t urgent enough with the ball. Genk’s gameplan was set, only improvements in the finishing department were needed for the next 45 minutes.
Been’s move at half-time was strange – replacing Jelle Vossen with Elyaniv Barda. His first action was to be offside but the manager clearly wanted more support up front for Ogunjimi, given Barda’s flexibility. Leverkusen began more hurriedly than in the first, probably wanting to kill the game off. The cageyness of the game reigned despite both probably needing to win to put pressure on Chelsea and Valencia in the group.
Leverkusen were resting on their laurels a lot in the next 20 minutes, but Schurrle’s excellent move, where he embarrassed the defence would have doubled the lead, had Koteles not been rushing to the rescue. Things got much worse for Genk minutes later as Nadson’s standing leg went underneath him as he intercepted a cross.
Genk rallied for the final 15 minutes but Ogunjimi’s wasteful finishing cost the away team yet again. Barda’s cross found the free Ogunjimi, who headed low but the acrobatics of Leno denied him. Leverkusen still threatened but opted to hang on, angering the fans and suiting the Belgian champions’ approach.
A late surge from Leverkusen finally got them their second goal. Anele’s header found the recently introduced Michael Ballack who volleyed it past Koteles – who was deceived by a slight deflection.
All in all, a fair result but Genk gave it their all away from home. The games in Belgium are where the points need to be won. Mario Been can be applauded for not shutting up the shop entirely and perhaps feel disheartened not scoring. With the other two teams drawing in Group E, it’s still very tight but the real test comes in the Chelsea double-header.
Leverkusen (4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno – Castro, Reinartz, Toprak, Kadlec (Ballack 80′) – Rolfes, Bender – Schürrle, Renato (Balistch 65′), Sam – Kießling (Derdiyok 93)
Genk (4-4-2) – Koteles – Anele, Simaeys, Nadson (Hyland 69′), Pudil – Buffel, Toszer, Hubert (Nwanganga 78′), De Bruyne – Vossen (Barda 45′), Ogunjimi
Tagged Andre Schürrle, Anele, Balistch, BayArena, Bayer Leverkusen, Bernd Leno, Castro, Chelsea, Daniel Pudil, Daniel Toszer, David Hubert, Elyaniv Barda, Genk, Jelle Vossen, Jeroen Simaeys, Kadlec, Kennedy Nwanganga, Kevin De Bruyne, Khaleem Hyland, Lars Bender, Lazlo Koteles, Mario Been, Marvin Ogunjimi, Michael Ballack, Nadson, Reinartz, Renato Augusto, Robin Dutt, Sidney Sam, Simon Rolfes, Stefan Kießling, Thomas Buffel, Toprak, Valencia