Leon Bailey, Moussa Diaby and Kerem Demirbay all starred as Bayer Leverkusen earned their 10th win of the season with a 5-2 victory at home to VfB Stuttgart.
Neither side had been in particularly scintillating form this year, with a combined three wins in 2021 prior to kick-off, but Leverkusen began as if in a hurry to change all that. Gregor Kobel had to tip Bailey’s shot onto the crossbar after just 90 seconds and he was by far the busier goalkeeper in the first half. He did well to save a fierce Diaby shot in the 18th minute, but could only parry it out to Demirbay, who prodded the home side in front on the rebound. Kobel pulled off a fine save at full stretch to keep out Patrik Schick’s deft chip, but there was nothing he could do about Demirbay’s second. The unmarked midfielder collected Bailey’s pass on the edge of the box and coolly doubled Leverkusen’s advantage with a low shot. There was very little to see from Stuttgart, who had to take off Nicolas Gonzalez with an injury after just 22 minutes, although Mateo Klimowicz dragged a presentable chance wide of the post and Silas Wamangituka drilled into the side netting from a tight angle.
As entertaining as the first half was, it turned out it was only the warm-up act for the main event after the interval. Substitute Sasa Kalajdzic gave the visitors hope with a superb dinked finish over Lukas Hradecky, but Bailey restored the hosts’ two-goal advantage shortly afterwards, tapping in after a brilliant run by Diaby. Wamangituka was a constant menace for Stuttgart and forced Hradecky to be alert at his near post a couple of times, but the match looked to be over as a contest when Florian Wirtz’s brilliant header finished a flowing team move on the counter-attack. There was still more to come, however, as Kalajdzic gave Stuttgart a lifeline with a clever flick from Erik Thommy’s cross in the 77th minute, only for new Leverkusen signing Demarai Gray to strike the hammer blow, putting the seal on the win with a late curling effort into the top corner.
- Demirbay scored his first Bundesliga brace for Leverkusen, and second overall having previously done so for Hoffenheim in April 2017.
- The 27-year-old now has three league goals this season, two more than he managed in the entire 2019/20 campaign.
- Wirtz set a new Bundesliga record by becoming the first 17-year-old ever to score five top-flight goals.
- Bailey registered his sixth assist of the season, making him Leverkusen's most potent attacker (five goals).
- This was only Leverkusen's second win of 2021, following their 2-1 triumph over Dortmund on Matchday 17.
- Kalajdzic scored his seventh goal of the season with his first shot of the game. He was also on target against Leverkusen in the reverse fixture earlier this season.
Watch: Gray: "A perfect start"
Leverkusen: Hradecky - Fosu-Mensah (Dragovic 62'), Tah, Tapsoba, Sinkgraven - Wirtz, Aranguiz (c) (S. Bender 87'), Demirbay - Bailey (Frimpong 74'), Schick, Diaby (Gray 74')
Unused subs: Lomb, Alario, Jedvaj, Wendell, Palacios
Out: Amiri (not included), Arias (ankle), Baumgartlinger (knee), Bellarabi (thigh), L. Bender (calf), Paulinho (knee), Weiser (thigh)
Coach: Peter Bosz
Stuttgart: Kobel - Mavropanos, Anton, Kempf (c) (Ahamada 46') - Massimo (Thommy 46'), Mangala, Endo, Silas - Förster (Coulibaly 80'), Klimowicz (Klement 62') - Gonzalez (Kalajdzic 22')
Unused subs: Bredlow, Stenzel, Karazor, Sosa
Out: Al Ghaddioui (pelvis), Castro (hamstring), Didavi (muscular), Egloff (ankle), Mola (hip)
Coach: Pellegrino Matarazzo