Borussia Mönchengladbach took a huge step in their journey to the Champions League proper as they comfortably saw off BSC Young Boys 3-1 in Bern.
The first half began in hurried fashion with chances for both teams in the early exchanges. Gladbach and Young Boys both threatened almost exclusively from the wide areas and this was to become a theme throughout; Raffael and Lars Stindl both played centrally meaning that Ibrahima Traoré was free to utilise his pace for the German outfit, while Young Boys’ Yoric Ravet and Miralem Sulejmani were able to get in behind and trouble the three-man Gladbach defence.
Indeed, it was the hosts who had the better of the chances in the opening ten minutes – Ravet’s low drive was dragged wide before he appeared to be bundled over in the area by Tony Jantschke just a couple of minutes later. After no penalty was given, however, a fluid move from the visitors resulted in the opening goal. Thorgan Hazard followed in his brother’s footsteps as he jinked and jaunted through the Young Boys defence before finding Raffael. The Brazilian took a couple of touches before firing a low, hard strike past Yvon Mvogo, thus sealing the first of three crucial away goals. Indeed, Hazard look in fine fettle all night as he began to control the game and also saw a fizzing effort of his own tipped over by Mvogo.
Young Boys’ impotence up front in the first half was largely to do with their inability to feed giant striker Guillaume Hoarau. This changed, however, after the break; a ball over the top bypassed the excellent Christoph Kramer and Tobias Strobl in the Gladbach midfield and found Hoarau. The striker helped work the ball wide to Ravet whose whipped cross found Sulejmani – and the Serb was never going to miss.
The equaliser appeared to stun Gladbach briefly – the threat from the flanks continued as a cross found the head of Hoarau who glanced his header inches wide. Die Fohlen soon regained their composure, however, and regained the lead as a result. After some pinball on the edge of the Young Boys’ box, substitute André Hahn clipped the ball beyond Mvogo, albeit with a hint of offside.
But if there was uncertainty about Gladbach’s second, there was no doubt at all about their third. Oscar Wendt’s deep, high cross from the left found Raffael, who thrashed a volley with his right foot. The ball took a wicked deflection off Alain Rochat and flew past Mvogo to give Gladbach an unassailable lead – as well as a priceless third away goal.
Young Boys weren’t without their chances as Hoarau, Ravet and Sulejmani continued to threaten Yann Sommer in the Gladbach goal. However, new signings Strobl and Kramer continued to dictate play with the ball and break it up when out of possession, effectively neutralising any further efforts from the Bern outfit. The introduction of Denis Zakaria gave Young Boys some much-needed impetus from the middle of the park in the final quarter of an hour, but Gladbach’s own replacements were effective in shutting up shop; Jannik Vestergaard came on for the lively Traoré while defensive winger Fabian Johnson shut down much of the wide threat when he came on for captain Lars Stindl.
Apart from the period of about 20 minutes after the second half, Gladbach could not have looked more comfortable and, with three away goals up their sleeves, should be all but into the Champions League group stages.