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Bochum edges Union Berlin in Bundesliga relegation battle

Bochum celebrates Bochum - The Canadian Press

BERLIN (AP) — No Xabi, no problem.

Even without coach Xabi Alonso on the touchline, Bayer Leverkusen remained unbeaten Sunday with a 5-1 Bundesliga win over Eintracht Frankfurt that stretched its record run without defeat to 48 games in all competitions.

Alonso was suspended for an accumulation of yellow cards, but he watched from the stands as his Bundesliga champions showed no tiredness from Thursday’s 2-0 win at Roma in the first leg of the Europa League semifinals.

“It was another perspective,” Alonso said after seeing Czech forward Adam Hložek set up three goals. “We played very seriously. Of course the result is super, but the performance was very professional.”

Alonso rotated the team with just Edmond Tapsoba, Robert Andrich and Granit Xhaka keeping their places from Rome. Brazilian winger Arthur made his first start after recovering from a serious thigh injury.

Xhaka fired the visitors in front in the 12th minute with a brilliant strike from distance.

Hugo Ekitiké equalized, but that was as good as it got for Frankfurt with Omar Marmoush blazing over when he only had Leverkusen ’keeper Lukáš Hrádecký to beat.

Patrik Schick powered a header past Kevin Trapp before the break and Exequiel Palacios made it 3-1 with a penalty after it.

Substitute Jeremie Frimpong capped a brilliant team move with the fourth goal in the 77th, and Victor Boniface completed the scoring with another penalty in the 89th. It was Leverkusen's 82nd goal in the Bundesliga this season, a new club record.

Leverkusen hasn’t lost a game in any competition this season. Its 48-game unbeaten start is a record across Europe’s “big five” leagues.


Union Berlin, which played Real Madrid in the Champions League this season, edged closer to relegation with a 4-3 loss at home to fellow struggler Bochum.

Bochum defender Maximilian Wittek scored twice in a game for the first time, before Keven Schlotterbeck made it 3-0 in the 37th.

Union coach Nenad Bjelica reacted with three changes at the break, sending on Yorbe Vertessen, Brenden Aaronson and Chris Bedia.

Vertessen pulled one back in the 59th, three minutes before Bedia got another, only for Union's defense to leave Philipp Hofmann free to head the visitors’ fourth.

Aaronson did brilliantly to set up Benedict Hollerbach for Union’s third in the 74th, but the equalizer never came.

Union, which was only promoted to the Bundesliga in 2019, played in the Champions League this season after an unlikely fourth-place finish last year. Summer transfers did not have the desired effect and the team let long-time favorite coach Urs Fischer go in November.

Before kickoff Sunday, Union president Dirk Zingler denied reports that the club was set to dismiss Fischer's replacement, Bjelica, at the end of the season.

“Bjelica has our full support,” Zingler said. “The season we've played hasn't been a good one. That has nothing to do with Bjelica, but with the first half of the season. We didn't play well then. As a club, we didn't deliver.”

Bochum (33 points) moved three points ahead of Union, which was just a point ahead of Mainz (29) in the relegation playoff spot. Mainz drew at Heidenheim 1-1 in the late game.

Union visits second-from-bottom Cologne (24) next weekend in what will be a must-win game for the home team to avoid being relegated alongside last-place Darmstadt.

Two rounds remain.


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