Bayer 'Neverkusen' defying history at top of Bundesliga


Bayer Leverkusen's Spanish coach Xabi Alonso celebrates after the German first division Bundesliga football match Bayer 04 Leverkusen v 1 FC Union Berlin in Leverkusen, western Germany on November 12, 2023.

Xabi Alonso did it as a player. Now he's done it again as a coach.

Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen have routed Union Berlin 4-0 to return to the top of the Bundesliga after matching the league's best-ever start on Sunday with 10 wins and a draw.

As a classy midfielder, Alonso was also part of the Bayern Munich team that only dropped two points in the first 11 rounds under coach Pep Guardiola in 2015-16.

"We don't want to talk too much about the record," Alonso said. "We want to keep going, we want to look forward. It's going to be difficult before the winter break."

But it's a brilliant start for Alonso in the Basque's first full campaign in charge of a major club.

Leverkusen are now two points above perennial champions Bayern Munich, who had taken over at the top on Saturday with a 4-2 home win over promoted Heidenheim.

Leverkusen remain unbeaten on 31 points, the best ever start to a Bundesliga season for the side owned by pharmaceutical giant Bayer.

The club from a small city on the Rhine near Cologne have never won the Bundesliga, finishing runners-up five times, which has earned them the nickname "Neverkusen".

Alonso's Spanish compatriot Alex Grimaldo - a defender - scored again and set up another goal on Sunday.

Grimaldo, who joined Leverkusen in the off-season from Benfica, took his league tally to six goals by scoring for the second consecutive game.

Leverkusen capitalised on some lacklustre defending from Union when the 28-year-old Grimaldo was set up by Florian Wirtz to open the scoring in the 23rd minute.

The home team missed further good chances to build on the lead until Odilon Kossounou headed in a corner from Jonas Hofmann in the 56th.

Union defender Jerome Roussillon prevented worse when he made a goal-line clearance a minute later, but Grimaldo sent in another corner for Jonathan Tah to seal the result in the 73rd.

There was still time for Nathan Tella to score his first Bundesliga goal with a fine finish on a counter-attack that started with a free kick from the visitors in the 83rd.

Elsewhere, Eintracht Frankfurt fought back from two goals down to draw at Werder Bremen 2-2.

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