bundesliga

Bayer Leverkusen seal UEFA Europa League place with Union Berlin on verge of European return

Bayer Leverkusen will be playing Europa League football next season after Florian Wirtz's record-breaking goal, while Union Berlin are on the verge of a return to European competition for the first time since 2001 thanks to Joel Pohjanaplo's equaliser against his parent club.

Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Union Berlin
Goals: 1-0
Wirtz (27'), 1-1 Pohjanaplo (72')

The home side were bidding farewell to the Bender brothers - Lars and Sven - for the last time at the BayArena, while looking to confirm their place in the Europa League for next season. Lars was ruled out, while Sven started from the bench and watched as his side made a bright start. Patrik Schick thought he had put the hosts in front after just seven minutes, but his goal was ruled out for handball. Union - themselves still in with a chance of European football - responded well with Christopher Lenz forcing a save from Lukas Hradecky before Max Kruse shot wide at the near post minutes later. Kruse then had the ball in Leverkusen's net, but the second goal of the day was ruled out with Robert Andrich offside in the build-up. Early cards for Nadiem Amiri and Edmond Tapsoba mean they will both miss the final day trip to Borussia Dortmund, but that disappointment was soon forgotten. Wendell's cross-cum-shot across goal was poked home at the back post by Wirtz to put Leverkusen in front. Union were staying well in the game, though, with Nico Schlotterbeck firing wide as the capital side went into the break behind, but having had the most attempts on goal through the first 45.

A full-throttle first half was met by a slow-starting second half in the opening 10 minutes, before Urs Fischer brought on Liverpool loanee Taiwo Awoniyi for his return from injury and Leverkusen-owned Pohjanpalo. Clear-cut chances were few and far between with Wirtz having a shot blocked on the hour mark, before Sheraldo Becker joined Awoniyi in making his return from injury off the bench. Union were dominating possession, but struggling to break down Leverkusen's defence until Pohjanaplo came up with the goods against his former club. A free-kick was played short on the right and crossed into the middle by Becker, with Pohjanaplo's header saved by Hradecky before the Finn smashed home the rebound to level the scores. Moussa Diaby almost immediately put his side back in front, but Andreas Luthe's fingertips pushed the Frenchman's strike onto his own crossbar. There was a sweet moment for Bender as he came on in added time to wave goodbye to the BayArena, but the scores remained level as Leverkusen to sealed a Europa League place. Union - thanks to Borussia Mönchengladbach's defeat at home to VfB Stuttgart - are on course to qualify for the European Conference League heading into the final day.

Match stats

  • Wirtz is now the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score six goals, at 18 years and 12 days old. The teen has produced five goals and fives assists across his full debut season of Bundesliga football.
  • Pohjanpalo's six goals this season are a personal best for him in a single campaign, while 10 of his 13 Bundesliga goals overall have come as a substitute.
  • Leverkusen dropped points at home under Wolf for the first time (W3, D1).
  • Six Bundesliga matches is Kruse's longest run without a goal since he joined Union last summer.
  • Union have picked up 16 points in as many Rückrunde matches. They claimed 25 in the same number of Hinrunde games.

Line-ups

Leverkusen: Hradecky - Tah, Dragovic, Tapsoba, Wendell - Wirtz (S. Bender 90'+1), Aranguiz (c), Demirbay – Amiri (Bellarabi 68'), Diaby - Schick (Gray 84')
Unused subs: Grill, Paulinho, Jedvaj, Weiser, Frimpong, Gedikli
Out: Alario (thigh), Arias (ankle), Bailey (foot), Baumgartlinger (knee), L. Bender (knee), Fosu-Mensah (knee), Palacios (groin), Sinkgraven (knee)
Coach: 
Hannes Wolf

Union: Luthe - Friedrich, Knoche, Schlotterbeck - Trimmel (c) (Becker 66'), Gentner (Griesbeck 84'), Andrich, Lenz (Bülter 66') - Ingvartsen (Awoniyi 55') - Musa (Pohjanpalo 55'), Kruse
Unused subs: Karius, Ryerson, Endo, Gießelmann
Out: Busk (muscular), Dajaku (foot), Hübner (muscular), Prömel (muscular), Teuchert (knee), Ujah (knee)
Coach: Urs Fischer