The Foals began 2019 in the Bundesliga with three points, with Alassane Plea’s goal earning Borussia a 1-0 win in Leverkusen.
It was one-way football in the opening half hour at the BayArena, albeit without the hosts creating too many clear-cut chances. Their best moment actually came within a matter of seconds, but Nico Elvedi reacted quickly to deny Kevin Volland a shooting opportunity. The Foals had to be patient, and their composure paid off in the 37th minute. Lars Stindl and Jonas Hofmann combined to send Alassane Plea beyond the defence, before the Frenchman picked out the bottom corner to open the scoring with Gladbach’s first meaningful attack. Elvedi could even have doubled the visitors’ lead before the break, if not for a brilliant reaction save from Lukas Hradecky.
The second 45 took on a similar picture to the first, as Leverkusen controlled proceedings, but this time there were chances to boot. Fortunately for the Foals, Yann Sommer was at his usual best. Kai Havertz had the goal at his mercy but fired straight at the keeper, before the Swiss giant made two superb reaction stops to deny first Kevin Volland and then Havertz again. Karim Bellarabi also hit the post as Bayer 04 piled on the pressure, but Borussia stood firm to kick off the Rückrunde with three points and wrap up a league double against their local rivals.
Dieter Hecking’s first starting line-up of the new year featured a number of players returning from injury. Yann Sommer started in goal as usual, with birthday boy Matthias Ginter (facial fracture) and Nico Elvedi (head wound) returning to the back four alongside Michael Lang and Oscar Wendt. Tobias Strobl, Denis Zakaria and Jonas Hofmann made up the midfield three, while a fit again Lars Stindl (ankle) led the line together with Thorgan Hazard and Alassane Plea.
Three players still missed out on the squad through injury in Raffael (broken collarbone), Mamadou Doucouré (thigh tear) and Keanan Bennetts (thigh strain).