BREMEN: Bayer Leverkusen stayed in the hunt for a top-four finish in the Budesliga after two goals by striker Kai Havertz as well as one each by Mitchell Weiser and Kerem Demirbay helped them to a 4-1 win at struggling Werder Bremen last night.
The result left Bayer fifth on 50 points from 26 games, one behind fourth-placed Leipzig and eight adrift of leaders Bayern Munich. Werder, who suffered a record-extending seventh straight home defeat, stayed 17th on 18 points from 25 matches.
With no spectators present in the stadium as part of the Covid-19 precautions, the game descended into a lull before a frantic five-minute spell produced three goals midway through the first half.
Havertz fired Leverkusen ahead in the 28th minute when he rose above his marker at the far post and headed past keeper Jiri Pavlenka after a darting run and cross by Moussa Diaby.
Theodor Gebre Selassie levelled two minutes later with a cheeky back-heel from six metres after Leonardo Bittencourt swung in a corner, but more slack defending by Bremen allowed the visitors to nose ahead again in the 33rd minute.
Havertz was left completely unmarked to head home from eight metres after Kerem Demirbay floated in an inch-perfect free kick and Bremen fell apart in the second half as the visitors carved them open almost at will.
Defender Weiser made it 3-1 in the 61st minute when he powered in a close-range header after another fine assist by the lively Diaby and Leverkusen missed several chances before Demirbay sealed the rout.
Substitute Karim Bellarabi waltzed his way through a static home defence before he released Demirbay with a clever pass which left the latter with a simple task of beating Pavlenka with a dinked finish.
The Bremen city government had been skeptical about hosting soccer games, though it joined other German states in letting them go ahead.
Mayor Andreas Bovenschulte said yesterday on TV channel ARD that it was a “very problematic signal to society” to allow football at a time when other people in Germany were encouraged to follow social distancing.
“We’re allowing major sports events in which it’s part of the routine for 22 people to come into close contact. And not even from two households but from 22 different households,” he said, according to German agency dpa.
Earlier, third-division club Chemnitz said one of their players tested positive for the coronavirus, in the latest obstacle to restarting lower-league games in Germany.
Chemnitz did not name the player. The club said he is “completely symptom-free.” That player and two other players who had contact with him will spend 14 days in isolation at home.
The first and second divisions in Germany returned to play on Saturday but the third-division restart was postponed last week from its planned date of May 26.
Some clubs have still not received clearance from local authorities to play or hold full trainings. Chemnitz said they still planned to resume full training today despite having three players in isolation.