Gladbach coach Marco Rose was born in Leipzig and coached Red Bull Salzburg. But inside knowledge couldn't stop RB Leipzig, as Timo Werner's treble sent his side top, writes Matt Pearson from Mönchengladbach.
Gladbach 1-3 RB Leipzig
(Embolo 90+1' - Werner 38', 47', 90+4')
For the tiny cluster of RB Leipzig fans who made the 500 kilometer trip from east to west on Friday night, a clinical Timo Werner hat trick made it all worthwhile. For another product of the city, the journey home may be significantly shorter, but there's still a long road still ahead.
A little over a year ago, Leipzig-born Marco Rose had just taken Red Bull Salzburg, RB Leipzig's sister club, to the semifinals of the Europa League, beating Borussia Dortmund and Lazio en route, while storming to the Austrian title with a brand of attacking, full pelt, pressing football similar to the kind Leipzig unleashed on the Bundesliga in their maiden campaign. With the route between the Red Bulls established and Rose's playing background at Rotation and VfB Leipzig, the pieces seemed to fit.
But Leipzig had other ideas, appointing Julian Nagelsmann. In the matchday three opener at Borussia Park, Nagelsmann's side showed why his players were watching the Champions League draw on Thursday and Gladbach had to wait another day for their own draw. While Rose said after the game that he saw elements of what he wanted from his side, the difference on the night was the striker who has come to define the visitors' attacking style.
"It was great to score the three goals," said Werner of his first Bundesliga hat trick. "But it's too easy to draw that to the contract extension [signed last weekend]. I scored goals and provided assists at the end of last season. I always had a clear mind when I was playing."
Whistles and handbrakes
The home side started at a ferocious pace that delighted Rose, snapping in to early tackles which often met their man significantly later than referee Sven Jablonski could tolerate. But his frequent whistling was in danger of being drowned out by the whistles blown by thousands in the Nordkurve every time their unpopular visitors touched the ball. The air-pressured protest against "the construct" of RB Leipzig lasted 19 minutes, in a nod to Gladbach's year of formation, 1900.
The stalemate lasted a little longer. Rose had asked his men to "release the handbrake" on their creativity before the match and after taking their time to settle, the home side started to roll forwards, with Breel Embolo and Alassane Plea combining well to test Peter Gulacsi with the first serious effort from either side just after the half-hour mark.
The second serious effort brought the opening goal, one greeted by boos rather than whistles. Werner received a perceptive Emil Forsberg pass with his back to goal, lured Matthias Ginter towards a ball he couldn't win, spun his Germany teammate on the left-hand edge of the box, gave Yann Sommer the eyes and slipped it between his legs.
On the touchline, Rose alternated between resting his hands on his hips and in his pockets in a sort of bemused dance, before taking a seat with his staff to assess the damage. He was the first man down the tunnel at the break.
Sloppy start to the second half
Presumably the 42-year-old didn't get to the dressing rooms first to tell his side to give Werner more space in behind immediately after the restart but that's what they did all the same. The Germany striker timed his run intelligently to burn past Nico Elvedi, collect Yussuf Poulsen's layoff, and slide another past Sommer. Gladbach may have taken the handbrake off a notch but they'd forgotten to check their mirrors.
For a coach who made his name with a team similar in both style and name, Rose's side had been undone by two strikes straight out the RB, and Werner, playbook. Both strikes started with Kevin Kampl, a scurrying inventive midfield presence, winning possession and springing his teammates forward in the kind of rehearsed patterns Nagelsmann, and his predecessors at Leipzig, specialize in.
Despite some big name summer signings, the former Hoffenheim tactician named an eleven who were all at the club last season. Their superior cohesion told in a few key moments.
"It was great how Emil [Forsberg] found the gap but it wasn't just Emil. Kevin [Kampl] was super important for us today, Sabi [Marcel Sabitzer] as well. This attacking group is familiar, well practiced together," said Werner.
For all his praise of the unit, the contrast between Werner and the home strikers was stark. Plea, Embolo and Marcus Thuram all spurned decent moments with weak shots, poor control and indecision.
Embolo did finally nod home in injury time, causing a few home fans to head back to their seats after making a hasty retreat. They were almost rewarded when the Swiss forward rose to meet a right wing cross six yards out moments later, but he sent his header over the bar. Perhaps that handbrake still needs some oil.
Werner, on the other other hand is motoring nicely along. The 23-year-old raced away from Ginter again to offer his opponents a lesson in composure, slotting home to make it five goals in his first three Bundesliga games. Even though Werner got the better of Gladbach, the season is still young, and Rose will know he has the tools to build a side more to his liking by the time he travels to his home town in early February.