Mainz IMPROVED PERFORMANCE BUT STILL SEARCHING FOR FIRST POINTS
A set-piece goal decides the match with Bayer Leverkusen - Created chances without reward
It was not meant to be: Despite a clear improvement in performance compared to the game against Union Berlin, a focussed defensive performance and several chances to score, Mainz is still waiting for the first Bundesliga points of the season after the match with Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday afternoon. The only goal of the day was scored before the break from a corner, when Lucas Alario beat Robin Zentner from close range with his head (30.). In the end, the Zerofiver's efforts to equalise fizzled out, in other key moments Bayer’s defence held strong time and time again, and the chances we had also remained fruitless.
Jan-Moritz Lichte had made several changes after the international break: Jeremiah St. Juste came in at right-back and Luca Kilian made his first start for Mainz 05 alongside Moussa Niakhaté, while Phillipp Mwene and Alexander Hack were on the bench. In the attacking areas playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, Jonathan Burkardt and Levin Öztunali started in place of Robin Quaison and Karim Onisiwo, who only returned from their national teams on Thursday.
250 spectators in the OPEL ARENA saw a balanced opening phase, in which the visitors had more possession and got their first chance of the game from a set piece: After a free kick from no mans land, initially defended by Robin Zentner, Leon Bailey tried a lob from about 20 metres, but missed the goal by a good metre (7th minute). But all in all, the Zerofivers, which were newly formed at the back, were extremely compact and left Bayer little room for manoeuvre. Although they had to be patient for a long time to find their own opportunities, Mainz fought their way into the game and could have taken the lead in the 25th minute. After a fine cross to the far post by Jean-Paul Boëtius, the somewhat surprised Burkardt got on the end of it, but put the ball over the bar - the first noteworthy chance for the hosts. The fact that the home team had kept the game level l in the first half hour came to and end when Alario headed home a corner kick, Zentner touched the ball, but could only bring it under control centimetres behind the goal line (30.). Bayer was in the lead, had gained more possession and won the majority of the duels, but this goal did not do the game justice.
The Mainz team kept their heads up, kept their shape and could have equalized six minutes before the end of the first half: Daniel Brosinski found Boëtius on the left, whose cross missed Jean-Philippe Mateta by a hair's breadth (39). A shot by Leon Bailey from an acute angle (41) was the last action worth mentioning in the first 45 minutes, Bayer taking a narrow lead into the break.
Burkardt & Öztunali with good chances - Leverkusen hang on
The hosts returned unchanged at the restart, while on Leverkusen's side, ex Mainz captain Julian Baumgartlinger was now on the pitch. The first half-chance belonged to the Zerofivers, when Sven Bender cleared a cross from Burkardt to the corner, Mateta waited in vain to shoot (48.). On the opposite side four minutes later, Zentner saved a violent shot from Nadiem Amiri (52.). The action was now happening in both penalty areas: In minute 55, Öztunali could have equalised after captain Danny Latza's pass, but Lars Bender's courageous slide prevented the goal. After just under an hour, Lichte made his first change and brought Quaison and Edimilson Fernandes on for Burkardt and Kunde Malong. As a result, both teams largely neutralized each other, with no further chances until the middle of the second half.
The Mainz team were clearly capable of taking something from the game and did not allow much but on their part they struggled to create chances in front of goal. Or the final pass failed, as it did in minute 73: St. Juste had combined well with Onisiwo, who had just been brought on at right wing, but the full back again defused Bender after both Mateta and Quaison had lurked in promising positions. In minute 76 the Mainz head coach made a final change bringing on Paul Nebel and Dong-Won for Ji Mateta and Latza. Shortly afterwards, the 05ER even thought Bayer would lose a man after Tapsoba brought down Onisiwo as the last man and referee Bastian Dankert presented the defender with a red card, which was then withdrawn after reviewing the video replay, however, because the Mainz attacker had previously been offside by centimetres - it was a fair decision (77.) Bayer wanted to hold onto their narrow lead, while the Mainz team, with their now concentrated attacking play, sought the gap on the pitch but failed to find it in the late stages of the game. Even in the four-minute stoppage time there was nothing compelling for the Mainz, so it remained at this tight 0:1. The bottom line was a bitter, fourth defeat of the season as the visitors picked up three points. The Mainz-based team now hopes to earn the first points of the season against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday afternoon (15:30), again in the OPEL ARENA.