Aleksandar Dragovic was the unlikely hero for Bayer Leverkusen as they made it five straight wins in the Bundesliga on Matchday 8, seeing off an out-of-sorts Arminia Bielefeld side who were kept in the game by Lukas Hradecky's improbable own goal.
The two sides came into this meeting on completely opposing trajectories: Bielefeld had lost five Bundesliga games in a row, while Leverkusen had won four on the bounce. The early exchanges reflected the balance of form, with the visitors stroking the ball around confidently and going close to an opener on 15 minutes, when Moussa Diaby's rasping effort forced a smart save from Stefan Ortega. Peter Bosz's men continued to pour forward and eventually took a deserved lead, as Leon Bailey played a delightful one-two with Florian Wirtz before firing into the roof of the net with his weaker right foot. Bielefeld wanted a penalty when Ritsu Doan went down in the area on the half-hour mark, but referee Felix Brych was unmoved – and in the end, the off-colour hosts failed to even muster a single shot on goal by half-time.
Leverkusen were enjoying a dream outing at this point, but the start of the second half turned into a nightmare. Captain Lars Bender had already gone off at the break before his twin brother Sven limped off with a nasty-looking injury, and Bielefeld then equalised in the most fortuitous of circumstances. Bayer's Daley Sinkgraven played a harmless backpass to his goalkeeper Hradecky, but the ball bobbled just before the Finland international could thump it downfield, and he ended up slicing it back into his own net. That stroke of misfortune seemed to throw Leverkusen off their rhythm, and they struggled to find the tempo that had helped them dominate the first half. Bielefeld looked on course to stop the rot and finally claim a point - despite having just one shot on goal in the entire game - but substitute Dragovic popped up with a vital winner two minutes from time to spare Hradecky's blushes and push Leverkusen up to second in the table.
- Dragovic scored his first Bundesliga goal since December 2018. All three of his strikes in the German top flight have come away from home.
- Bailey has now netted in consecutive Bundesliga games for the first time since January 2018. He grabbed Leverkusen's third in the 4-3 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach before the international break.
- Wirtz is Leverkusen's leading assist provider this term with four. Only Max Kruse and Thomas Müller (both five) have more in the Bundesliga this season.
- Bielefeld's captain Fabian Klos was the top scorer in Bundesliga 2 last season with 21 goals, but he is yet to open his account in eight top-flight games.
- Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz turned 57 today and celebrated his birthday with a fifth straight Bundesliga win - a career record for the Dutchman as either a player or coach.
Bielefeld: Ortega - Brunner, Pieper, van der Hoorn, Lucoqui - Seufert (Kunze 80'), Prietl - Doan, Hartel (Voglsammer 89'), Yabo (Soukou 80') - Klos (c) (Schipplock 63')
Unused subs: Linner, Nilsson, Laursen, de Medina, Consbruch
Out: Maier (personal reasons)
Coach: Uwe Neuhaus
Leverkusen: Hradecky - L. Bender (c) (Weiser 46'), S. Bender (Dragovic 50'), Tah, Sinkgraven - Baumgartlinger - Wirtz, Amiri (Demirbay 80') - Bailey, Alario (Schick 68'), Diaby (Bellarabi 80')
Unused subs: Grill, Lomb, Jedvaj, Wendell
Out: Aranguiz (Achilles tendon), Arias (ankle), Palacios (back), Paulinho (knee), Tapsoba (not included)
Coach: Peter Bosz