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Bayer Leverkusen returns top of the Bundesliga with rout of Union Berlin

Union Berlins Paul Jaeckel, Bayer Leverkusen celebrates Union Berlins Paul Jaeckel, Bayer Leverkusen celebrates - The Canadian Press

BERLIN (AP) — Xabi Alonso did it before as a player. Now he’s done it again as a coach.

Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen 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.”

Spanish compatriot Álex Grimaldo – a defender – scored again and set up another goal Sunday.

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

Leverkusen capitalized on some lackluster 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 its lead until Odilon Kossounou headed in a corner from Jonas Hofmann in the 56th.

Union defender Jérôme 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 counterattack that started with a free kick from the visitors in the 83rd.

Leverkusen moved back to two points clear of Bayern Munich, which had moved provisionally top Saturday with a 4-2 win over Heidenheim.

Union, which snapped a 12-game losing run across all competitions with a 1-1 draw at Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday, couldn’t prevent its ninth consecutive Bundesliga defeat as it dropped to last place.

“You could see a difference in class today," Union coach Urs Fischer said. “But I have to say, the manner in which we conceded the goals, we really made it too easy for them.”

When Leverkusen hosted Union in the 13th round of the Bundesliga last season, Union was top going into the game and Leverkusen was in the relegation zone. Now it’s the other way around.

“Hopefully all the players come back fit from the international break," Alonso said. "The feeling is super at the moment.”

Eintracht Frankfurt fought back from two goals down to draw at Werder Bremen 2-2, and Leipzig enjoyed a 3-1 win over Freiburg to move fourth, two points above Borussia Dortmund.


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