Jens Hegeler made it a night to remember for the Werkself faithful with a sublime winner late on, after Simon Rolfes had opened the scoring, only for Carlos Vela to equalise for the guests.
Confident from their last seven home wins in the Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen began well in an effort to try and eradicate the memory of their opening Matchday loss in Manchester. Heung Min Son started the half bustlingly, putting himself everywhere between Soceidad’s defence and midfield and connecting well with a Lars Bender cross in the third minute to force Claudio Bravo into a save at his near post. The opening stages became more open thereafter, with both sides eager to counterattack although only Sociedad’s artful winger Antoine Griezmann held any real threat for the Spaniards.
The Frenchman had a swerving free-kick unconventionally kept out by Bernd Leno after 24 minutes, and from the resultant wasted corner Leverkusen broke hastily up the other end where lovely build-up from Son and Bender created a chance for Sidney Sam whose deflected shot just flew wide of Bravo’s far post. Ten minutes later, Son struck a searing effort wide, with Leverkusen starting to build their first period of sustained pressure.
Before and after
On the stroke of half-time Son won a free-kick on the corner of the box, and Sam’s bending ball was headed against Bravo by Rolfes. The home captain was the swiftest to react to an unconvincing parry, poking the ball over the line from close-range to send Leverkusen into the break a goal to the good.
Almost immediately after the restart Sociedad began to demonstrate the sheer strength of their attacking capabilities, as Vela danced through the Leverkusen defence and drew a penalty from the backtracking Roberto Hilbert. The Mexican stepped up to the spot but a weak penalty was parried by Leno. Vela was quick to respond however, converting the rebound for the equaliser.
Leverkusen, realising that a single point from their opening two European games would make progression to the next round more difficult, tried to show that it wasn’t just their visitors who possess a formidable forward line-up, and the replacement of Son with Robbie Kruse effected a change in the game’s flow.
After continuous pressure involving Kruse and Stefan Kießling it was another substitute who had the final say. With just seconds remaining, Hegeler, who had replaced Sam, stepped up to a free-kick 25 yards out and applied such swerve and dip on his effort that it bamboozled Bravo and ensured Leverkusen three precious points.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Wollscheid, Toprak, Boenisch (Can, 68') - Reinartz, Bender, Rolfes - Sam (Hegeler, 85'), Kießling, Son (Kruse, 68')
Real Sociedad Club de Futbol: Bravo - Carlos Martínez, González, de la Bella, Elustondo - Bergara, Martínez - Zurutuza (Ros, 90'), Griezmann (Castro, 84'), Vela- Seferovic (Aggiretxe, 68')
Goals: 1-0 (Rolfes, 45'), 1-1 (Vela, 51'), 2-1 (Hegeler, 90+2')