Urs Fischer’s Union Berlin travelled to the BayArena without a win in the Bundesliga since August and having not scored a single goal in five league matches.
Neither of those statistics were bettered in Leverkusen. Worse still, Union now sit at the bottom of the Bundesliga table for the first time this season while suffering a four-goal hammering at the hands of the title challenging hosts.
Goals from Alejandro Grimaldo, Odilon Kossounou, Jonathan Tah and Nathan Tella ensured Alonso’s side reclaimed their position at the Bundesliga summit after Bayern Munich’s brief stint at the top following their win at home to Heidenheim on Saturday.
Bayer Leverkusen: Extraordinary strength in depth at Alonso’s disposal
Ahead of the game Alonso was unsure whether Exequiel Palacios would be ready to start after missing the Europa League trip to Baku on Thursday, but Robert Andrich who filled in for him, would be able to do so again against Union.
Alonso’s side are competing in three different competitions and have the squad depth to ensure they are competitive every game, no matter the line-up.
Despite needing a late penalty to beat Azerbaijani side Qarabag while seemingly in second gear for most of the game, Leverkusen were full of energy at the weekend having made several changes from Thursday’s exertions.
Tella’s goal must have delighted his manager, knowing that he has so much quality at his disposal and any missing piece of the puzzle can be replaced with the myriad of options off the bench.
Union Berlin: Lukas Hradecky could have had the afternoon off
As mentioned earlier, Union have not scored a goal in the Bundesliga for five consecutive games and they were no closer to it today.
It may have been Leverkusen ‘keeper Hradecky’s most uneventful match day of the season.
Die Werkself had a whopping 10 shots on target opposed to Union’s two, neither of which troubled the Finnish international.
Fischer opted to retain the same front two from the midweek trip to Naples in the Champions League, David Datro Fofana and Sheraldo Becker, but had no clear cut chances and severely lacked any decent service.
The club is far from lacking in other striking firepower too. Newly-capped German international Kevin Behrens has a respectable four strikes in 11, but was not able to impact the game.
His only noticeable involvement was an argument on the pitch with Leverkusen’s Granit Xhaka, which epitomised Union’s frustrating afternoon.
Bayer Leverkusen: Alejandro Grimaldo is the signing of the summer
Simon Rolfes may have negotiated the signing of the summer and potentially one of best value-for-money signings in recent history in Alejandro Grimaldo
The 28-year-old has just received his first ever call-up to the Spanish national team and it is truly no surprise.
Arriving on a free transfer from Portuguese side Benfica, the former Barcelona man has been an ever-present in Xabi Alonso’s Bundesliga line-ups. While chipping in with eleven goals and five assists, it is easy to see why.
The wing-back was on target once again against Union, with an audacious strike that looped over the top of Frederik Rønnow in the Union goal to open the scoring.
The Spaniard then turned provider with an excellently weighted corner that landed at the feet of Tah who volleyed over the helpless Rønnow to add a third for the hosts.
With eleven goal contributions in the same amount of Bundesliga games, it is clear to see how quickly Grimaldo established himself as one of Alonso’s key players.
Reliable defensively and devastating going forward, with each passing game it gets more and more obvious just how big of a coup it was bringing him to the BayArena.
Union Berlin: It is important the club sticks together
At other clubs it would be easy to point the finger at Fischer at the helm and think it may be time to think about changing things up in the Union dugout.
But, things don’t work like that at Union and the Swiss tactician has been publicly backed by Oliver Ruhnert, the Club’s managing director.
With good reason. Fischer has achieved the unthinkable in Köpenick and deserves the right to try and get the club back up the table.
The club have brought in a lot of new players and bedding them all in whilst the manager finds his most reliable starting eleven, while balancing the players’ concerns over the minutes they are getting will undoubtedly take time.
With football being the way it is now, if Fischer’s Union fail to win continuously scrutiny will naturally grow.
What Fischer can’t be judged on solely is this weekend’s defeat in Leverkusen, which every team across all competitions barring Bayern have in common with the East Berliners.
However, Union’s next three fixtures do not get any easier. A resurgent Augsburg under new boss Jess Thorup travel to the Stadion an Der Alten Försterei after the international break.
Leverkusen’s title rivals Bayern await them in Munich after that and then Gerardo Seoane’s Borussia Mönchengladbach will make the trip from North Rhine-Westphalia with on-loan Union man Jordan to potentially play a part.