Leon Bailey ended his 11 game goal-drought for Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday, but it was not enough to prevent his side slipping to a surprise 2-1 defeat at home to Freiburg.
Leverkusen might not have been in the best of form coming into this one – they exited the UEFA Europa League at the hands of Young Boys Bern on Thursday and had only taken five of a possible 15 points from their previous five Bundesliga outings – but there was no hint of a lack of confidence in a dominant first-half showing. Bailey had the first chance of the game with a curling effort from the edge of the box that Florian Müller tipped over, and the Freiburg custodian was called into action from the ensuing corner too, clawing away Lucas Alario's firm header. Demarai Gray was the next player to be thwarted by the visiting goalkeeper after a mazy run and shot from a tight angle. The away side's safety-first tactics kept them game goalless at the interval, even if they could have taken the lead with their only chance of the half, with the unmarked Demirovic heading straight at Bundesliga debutant Lennart Grill at a corner.
Demirovic was in no mood to squander his second sight of goal, though. There appeared to be little danger when Höler recovered possession in the centre circle early in the second half, but the 26-year-old caught the Leverkusen defence off guard, surging forward down the right and into the box before cutting the ball back for Demirovic to sweep home his fourth goal of the season. The hosts were stunned, having been on top for so long, and Freiburg took full advantage shortly afterwards. This time it was Demirovic who found space on the right, and although his initial cross into the middle was too strong for Höler, Vincenzo Grifo recycled possession and teed up Höler for a simple tap-in. Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz reacted by bringing on Patrik Schick and Jeremie Frimpong, and the attacking reshuffle soon paid off as Bailey jinked past Lukas Kübler before smashing in from 16 yards to set up a tense finale. Aleksandar Dragovic smashed a long-range effort wide of the target and Schick fired over with a shot on the turn as the hosts threw everything forward in search of an equaliser, but Freiburg held on to climb to eighth, now just three points behind Leverkusen.
- Grill, Germany's goalkeeper at U21 level, made his senior debut for Leverkusen in this game, as well as his maiden Bundesliga outing.
- Gray made his first league start for Leverkusen in his fourth league appearance overall.
- Demirovic struck for the fourth time this season, and first time away from home.
- Höler's goal was his third in 2020/21, and also his first on the road.
- Bailey's strike was his sixth of the season, meaning he has contributed to a team-high 12 Bundesliga goals this season (six goals, six assists).
- This was Freiburg's first win in their last eight matches against Leverkusen (L4, D3), and Peter Bosz's first defeat to the Black Forest club as a coach (W3, D2).
Watch: Höler: "Everyone fights for each other"
Leverkusen: Grill - Fosu-Mensah (Dragovic 44'), Tah, Tapsoba, Wendell - Wirtz, Aranguiz (c), Amiri (Schick 67') - Gray (Frimpong 67', Bellarabi 84'), Alario, Bailey
Unused subs: Lomb, Demirbay, Jedvaj, Sinkgraven, Palacios
Out: Arias (ankle), Baumgartlinger (knee), L. Bender (knee), S. Bender (knee), Diaby (suspended), Hradecky (heel), Paulinho (knee)
Coach: Peter Bosz
Freiburg: Müller - Kübler (Schlotterbeck 76'), Lienhart (Gulde 46'), Heintz, Günter (c) - Santamaria, Höfler - Schmid, Höler (Sallai 76'), Grifo (Haberer 76') - Demirovic (Jeong 82')
Unused subs: Uphoff, Til, Petersen, Keitel
Out: Flekken (elbow), Kwon (knee)
Coach: Christian Streich
Watch: Amiri: "Freiburg scored twice from two chances"