Bayer Leverkusen recorded an important win tonight by defeating RB Leipzig 4-1. Julian Brandt was the player of the match in what was one of the team’s best performances this season.
Ralph Hassenhuttl couldn’t count on the injured Konrad Leimer, so he moved Klostermann to right back and started 22-year-old Brazilian Bernardo on the left side. There were four more changes compared to Thursday’s Europa League win over Marseille. Orban was in at center back instead of Konate, while Kampl, Sabitzer and Yussuf Poulsen were in the starting eleven replacing Demme, Bruma and Jean-Kevin Augustin. On the other side, Heiko Herrlich made a couple of changes from last weekend’s draw in Augsburg. Kai Havertz was in midfield in place of Dominik Kohr, whereas Lars Bender replaced the young Greek international Panagiotis Retsos. The striking force consisted of Leon Bailey, Julian Brandt and Kevin Volland.
In the 3rd minute, Leon Bailey sent a great cross from a long free kick that ended up on the tallest player’s head. That was center back Jonathan Tah, who passed it on to Julian Baumgartlinger. The Austrian headed it towards goal, but Gulacsi was ready for it. After a scrappy start, a moment of freedom and fluency gave Leipzig the lead. Sabitzer flicked a high ball up in the air that Poulsen headed back to Leipzig’s #7. The Austrian set himself up and fired a shot in the lower right corner. Leno got his fingertips on the ball, but couldn’t deflect it away from goal. Sven Bender suffered an injury during the play and had to leave the field after just 18 minutes of play. Retsos came in to replace him.
Leverkusen was the more active team, but its players were making too many rash decisions. The visitors had the best chance up to that point in the 31st minute, when Brandt made a great run and was alone with the keeper. Pressure from behind caused him to shoot quickly and into Gulacsi’s feet. The home side couldn’t get on the ball. Leipzig had a 4-on-3 situation in the 40th minute. Keita was the man on the ball. He couldn’t decide who to pass it to and decided to take a shot to the dismay of his teammates.
Leverkusen got what it deserved just before half-time. After a Leipzig corner kick, the ball came to Leon Bailey on the counter attack. He was running on the right flank, while Brandt was making a run inside. However, the Jamaican noticed Havertz coming in from behind and decided to pass the ball to him, not to Brandt. Kai volleyed the ball, which then bounced off the ground and right past the inside of the post. It was a fantastic effort. The players went into the locker room with the match tied at 1-1.
In the 6th minute of the second half, Leverkusen turned the game around. Leno kicked the ball off, Volland chested it, Brandt shot it and it was 2-1 for the guests. They were having one of their best games of the season and were on pace to be rewarded with 4th place on the league table. Leipzig’s high line was being exposed by Bayer’s speedsters. In the 56th minute, the substitute Retsos scored his first ever Bundesliga goal. The ball came to the defender after a Bailey set piece. He struck it really well with the side of his foot and Leverkusen was suddenly in front by two. Following the goal, Poulsen was replaced with Bruma.
In the 60th minute, Wendell tried to make a sliding challenge, but his leg got trapped in the turf. It looked serious and probably was, since he had to be carried off the pitch holding the shoulders of his doctors. Benjamin Henrichs came in to replace him. It was all over in the 69th minute, when Julian Brandt found an open Volland, who cleverly executed with his left foot for a commanding 4-1 advantage. Upamecano’s sloppy pass was cruelly punished.
A heavy collision between Naby Keita and Bernd Leno led to the former being substituted out of the game and replaced by Stefan Ilsanker. He had a chance to score five minutes before the end, but managed to hit Leno’s leg from a few meters out. That was it. I must admit, I didn’t expect for the game to develop the way it did. Leipzig did look a bit tired, but that doesn’t change the fact that Bayer Leverkusen was the superior team tonight. Julian Brandt was the player of the match.