Bayer Leverkusen’s hopes of securing a top-four finish were dealt a serious blow on Matchday 33 as a clinical Hertha Berlin side ran out 2-0 winners at the Olympiastadion.
A defeat for the visitors did not look likely on the early balance of play, as Leverkusen quickly settled into their rhythm, suffocating Hertha with their pressure. Moussa Diaby in particular made a nuisance of himself on the right wing, creating a half-chance for Kevin Volland before curling a shot over the bar himself. When Kai Havertz had an acrobatic overhead kick saved by Rune Jarstein it appeared to be only a matter of time before Leverkusen scored, but instead it was Hertha who edged in front against the run of play as Matheus Cunha lashed in a brilliant strike from the edge of the area. The Brazilian almost doubled his tally a couple of minutes later when he went one-on-one with Lukas Hradecky, but the goalkeeper kept his side in the game with a superb save. Die Werkself recovered well from the shock of going behind, but it was Hertha who went closest to adding to the scoreline again when Krzysztof Piatek forced Hradecky to be alert at his near post from a tight angle.
Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz brought on Paulinho and Kerem Demirbay for the second half in a bid to turn the game around, but despite enjoying a period of dominance they again conceded out of the blue. A surge of speed from Piatek took him into the box and after dribbling past two defenders and the goalkeeper, Lukebakio was left with a simple tap-in from close range. Leverkusen threw caution to the wind after that, as attack-minded trio Lucas Alario, Florian Wirtz and Nadiem Amiri were all brought on, and the former almost reduced the deficit with a header that was cleared off the line by a desperate lunge from Jordan Torunarigha. That was as close as they came though, leaving Leverkusen needing to win on the final day of the season, coupled with a a defeat for Borussia Mönchengladbach, in order to secure Champions League football next season.
- Cunha scored his fifth goal in his 10th outing for Hertha and it was the first time he scored in the first half of a Bundesliga game.
- Lukebakio is Hertha's leading scorer this season with seven goals.
- Bruno Labbadia's first job as a Bundesliga head coach was at Leverkusen. He oversaw a ninth-placed finish and lost the 2008/09 DFB Cup final in his one full season in charge.
- Only champions Bayern Munich (46) and second-placed Borussia Dortmund (39) have collected more points than Leverkusen (32) during the second half of the season.
- This match ended Leverkusen's 22-game streak in which they had scored at least once per match.
- The last time they fired a blank was also against Hertha, on Matchday 16 in December 2019.
Watch: Lukebakio: "It was more Piatek's goal than mine!"
Hertha: Jarstein - Pekarik (Klünter 50'), Boyata, Torunarigha, Plattenhardt - Grujic, Stark (c) - Lukebakio (Esswein 69'), Darida, Cunha - Piatek (Ibisevic 89')
Unused subs: Smarsch, Leckie, Köpke, Ngankam, Rekik
Out: Ascacibar (foot), Dilrosun (thigh), Kalou (not included), Kraft (back), Mittelstädt (glandular fever), Skjelbred (calf), Wolf (ankle)
Coach: Bruno Labbadia
Leverkusen: Leverkusen: Hradecky - Dragovic, Tah, Tapsoba (Alario 57'), Wendell - Baumgartlinger (Amiri 75'), Aranguiz (Demirbay 46') - Diaby, Havertz, Bailey (Wirtz 75') – Volland (c) (Paulinho 46')
Unused subs: Özcan, S. Bender, Sinkgraven, Weiser, Wirtz
Out: Bellarabi (thigh), L. Bender (foot)
Coach: Peter Bosz