FC Union Berlin 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen: Wirtz is the Jewel in Xabi Alonso’s Bundesliga crown as Leverkusen move within one win of the title

A first-half Florian Wirtz penalty today was enough to seal victory away to Union Berlin in a tense affair that tested Xabi Alonso’s resolve, but, true to from this season, Bayer Leverkusen stood up to the challenge.

It was Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s ninth consecutive victory and means that they can win the Bundesliga next week with victory at home against Werder Bremen.

Story of the match

Under bright blue skies and in a cauldron of noise, Union Berlin welcomed Bundesliga leaders and invincible hopefuls, Bayer 04 Leverkusen to the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.

In midweek, Leverkusen had kept their hopes alive of a possible treble, defeating Dusseldorf to reach the DFB Pokal final.

Xabi Alonso’s side travelled to Köpenick looking to maintain their unbeaten season and win a record ninth consecutive league game.

That would be no easy task against a resurgent Union Berlin.

Seventh in the league for form in the previous ten games and nine points clear of regelation, the hosts have found their feet since Christmas.

Recent wins against Hoffenheim and Werden Bremen, plus an unlikely draw away to Eintracht Frankfurt have lifted morale and confidence in the Capital.

However, the visitors dominated initial proceedings.

Frederik Rönnow was called up to deny Alejandro Grimaldo, Iglesias Borja and Jonathan Tah in the opening 30 minutes but Union Berlin grew into the game.

In the 35th minute, Andras Schäfer won a corner in front of the Waldseite.

Captain, Christopher Trimmel delivered an inch-perfect cross into the front post that Robin Gosens narrowly headed over the bar from six yards.

The chance of the half fell to Yorbe Vertessen a few minutes later.

Slick footwork created space in the Leverkusen box but the Union striker leant back and sent his effort over the bar from 15 yards.

However, it was Leverkusen who eventually broke the deadlock in first half added time.

Gosens was sent off for a lazy tackle on Tella and Kossounou thought he had given the visitors the lead.

VAR intervened for an offside before awarding a penalty as Trimmel was punished for hand-ball.

Florian Wirtz stayed cool in the afternoon heat to send Rönnow the wrong way from the spot and move Leverkusen within one win of the Bundesliga title.

The best chance in the second half fell to man of the match, Tella.

Not for the first time, the former Southampton midfielder danced through the Union defence.

His strike from 18 yards looked destined for the bottom right corner, but Rönnow got his fingertips to the ball.

The ten men of Union Berlin never gave up, but with Leverkusen sitting comfortably in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the hosts could not find an equaliser.

With Bayern Munich struggling away to Heidenheim, the three points lifted Leverkusen 16 points clear of second place with six games to play.

A win at home to Werder Bremen next week will confirm the inevitable, Bayer 04 Leverkusen will be Bundesliga champions at last.

Moment of the Match

VAR has its critics and today would not have resolved the argument but Leverkusen fans will not care.

With the game fading out into a stalemate at half-time, Tella, the jewel of Xabi Alonso’s Bundesliga crown danced past Gosens and forced a foul.

Gosens was duly dismissed and chaos ensued.

The resultant free-kick struck the post before it eventually fell to Kossounou three yards out for an easy tap-in.

The away fans were delirious but it was VAR’s time to shine.

The goal was initially ruled out for Patrick Schick lying in front of goal in an offside position.

However, VAR kept looking at replies.

After a few minutes, it became clear that Trimmel had moved his right elbow towards the ball that deflected onto the post.

A few minutes later, a penalty was awarded and Rönnow was helpless as Wirtz scored his eighth goal of the Bundesliga campaign.

With Union Berlin down to ten-men, it was a game-changing moment and, ultimately, proved to be decisive as Leverkusen moved x points clear of Bayern Munich with six games to play.

With a record ninth consecutive victory, Leverkusen all but secured the Bundesliga title.

GGFN | Oscar O’Mara

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