Bayer Leverkusen's Patrik Schick scored a dramatic equaliser away to Qarabağ in the UEFA Europa League. - © GIORGI ARJEVANIDZE
Bayer Leverkusen's Patrik Schick scored a dramatic equaliser away to Qarabağ in the UEFA Europa League. - © GIORGI ARJEVANIDZE
bundesliga

Bayer Leverkusen fight back in Azerbaijan to preserve unbeaten run

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Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen made it 35 competitive games without loss in 2023/24 after coming from 2-0 down to draw their UEFA Europa League last-16 first leg with Qarabağ.

Qarabağ 2-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Goals: 1-0
Benzia 26' (assist: Juninho), 2-0 Juninho 45'+2 (assist: Andrade), 2-1 Wirtz 70', 2-2 Schick 90'+2 (assist: Andrich)

Xabi Alonso made eight changes to the team that beat Cologne to move 10 points clear of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga last weekend. That resulted in an uncharacteristically disjointed showing from the treble contenders, who survived a double scare in the 25th minute when Matěj Kovář swatted away from Juninho and Jankovic struck the upright from the resultant corner. Leverkusen failed to heed the warning as Yassine Benzia took full advantage of a loose pass by Jonathan Tah to give Qarabağ the lead. Patrick Andrade sent a close-range header wide, before setting up Juninho for a breakaway goal in first-half injury time for 2-0.

Leverkusen were nearly caught out again after the restart as Marko Vešović forced a fingertip save from Kovář. Amine Adli and Robert Andrich returned fire with a couple of shots that were blocked en route to the Qarabağ goal, prompting a double change from Alonso. Having already sent on Jeremie Frimpong at half-time, the Spanish coach introduced Florian Wirtz and Granit Xhaka with almost an hour gone. Wirtz duly answered the call with a fine run and finish to halve the deficit. Kovář pulled off a superb save to stop Juninho from restoring Qarabağ's two-goal lead, before Patrik Schick headed in a dramatic equaliser to extend Leverkusen's unbeaten streak ahead of Sunday's Bundesliga meeting with Wolfsburg and the return leg at the BayArena on 14 March.

Match stats

  • Leverkusen are unbeaten in a German record 35 competitive fixtures this season.
  • Alonso's team can still win a Bundesliga, DFB Cup, Europa League treble.
  • Bayer beat Qarabağ home and away in the groups.
  • Schick scored his seventh goal of the campaign, three of which have fallen in the Europa League.
  • Wirtz has three goals and four assists in Europe this term.
  • Qarabağ have lost seven of their nine UEFA competition meetings with Bundesliga clubs.

Teams

Qarabağ: Lunev, Vešović, Mustafazade, B. Hüseynov (c), Bayramov - Andrade (Silva 80'), Janković - Leandro Andrade, Benzia (Isaev 90'), Zoubir (Xhixha 90') - Juninho (Akhundzade 84')
Unused subs: Gugeshashvili, Ramazanov, Medvedev, Keyta, A. Hüseynov, Medina
Out: Cafarquliyev (suspended), Romão (suspended)
Coach: Gurban Gurbanov

Leverkusen: Kovář - Kossounou (Stanišić 81'), Tah (c), Tapsoba, Grimaldo - Tella (Frimpong 46'), Palacios (Xhaka 58'), Andrich, Adli - Borja Iglesias (Schick 80'), Hložek (Wirtz 58')
Unused subs: Hrádecký, Hincapié, Hofmann, Puerta
Out: Arthur (thigh), Boniface (groin)
Coach: Xabi Alonso

As it happened!

2 - 2

(2 - 0)

Qarabağ
FINAL
Leverkusen
Europa League
Round of 16, 1st leg
Round of 16, 1st leg Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium, Baku
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Full time: Qarabağ 2-2 Leverkusen

A superb second-half fightback from Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen means Xabi Alonso's side are in fine fettle for the Round of 16 second leg. Having trailed 2-0 at the break, a flurry of substitutes helped the visitors end the game with a valuable draw thanks to goals from Florian Wirtz and Patrik Schick. Leverkusen's remarkable unbeaten run this season remains intact!
90'
+ 5

Looking for a winner

Andrich plays one more cross into the Qarabağ box but Frimpong can only shoulder wide of the target.
90'
+ 2

Leverkusen are level

Scenes! The Bundesliga side complete their comeback from 2-0 down to draw level and it's substitute Patrik Schick who nods home Andrich's cross from the right from close range. Incredible.
90'
+ 2
Patrik Schick
90'

Substitution

90'

Substitution

89'

Time added on

There will be six extra minutes to play in Baku.
87'

Frimpong off target

The Dutch full-back can't take advantage of the cross and Qarabağ can clear as the rain intensifies.
84'

Substitution

83'

Super stop

Kovář pulls off a magnificent left-handed save to deny Juninho, who was through one-v-one with the Czech custodian. How vital could that stop prove to be come the end of this tie?
80'

More changes

Xabi Alonso throws Josip Stanišić and Patrik Schick into the mix as we enter the game's final ten minutes.
80'

Substitution

76'

Grimaldo searching

Grimaldo storms forward once again but his cross is straight into the grateful hands of Lunev.
73'

Fightback well underway

Borja Iglesias this time forces his way through on the left but the Spaniard can't manage to get a shot away. Leverkusen very much in the ascendency here.
70'

Bayer back in it

A beautiful goal from attack-wizard Wirtz, who makes his way behind the Qarabağ defence before lifting a lovely finish over the advancing Lunev.
70'
Florian Wirtz
65'

Tapsoba again

The Bayer defender gets to Grimaldo's corner but can only head wide of the target.
63'

Leverkusen improving

There's been a big improvement from Leverkusen since those changes and it's Tapsoba who is the latest player to test goalkeeper Lunev after Borja Iglesias provided the pass.
61'

Wirtz straight into it

Florian Wirtz sees an initial shot blocked before he pounces on the loose ball, combines with Adli and forces Lunev into a good save. There was a flag up there so that wouldn't have counted had it gone in, but it's nonetheless encouraging for the visitors.
58'

Alonso calls for cavalry

Florian Wirtz and Granit Xhaka are on for a Leverkusen side desperate to stem the home tide here.
54'

Leverkusen chances arriving

Leverkusen make inroads and soon after Adli's effort is deflected, Andrich has a shot blocked. The visitors have increased their urgency here.
50'

Kovář rescues B04

A crucial finger-tipped save from Kovář denies Vešović. That was a close-run thing for the visitors who are really up against it here.
47'

B04 push forward

Grimaldo does his best to carve out an opening but the Spain international loses control at a crucial moment and the chance fades. It's been one of those nights for Leverkusen thus far.
46'

Game back on

The second half is underway and it begins with a Bayer switch, Jeremie Frimpong coming on to replace Nathan Tella.
45'
+ 2

Half-time: Qarabağ 2-0 Leverkusen

Xabi Alonso has a big half-time team talk to make here with his side perhaps deservedly a couple of goals down against Qarabağ.
45'
+ 2

Qarabağ go further ahead

Just after Tah missed a good chance from Grimaldo's corner, Juninho races clear at the other end to put Leverkusen in a problematic situation. The hosts have doubled their lead.
45'
+ 2

Juninho

GOAL!

2:0
45'

Time added on

We'll have two minutes tacked onto the end of the first half.
43'

Better from Bayer

This is more like it from the visitors. Hložek cracks a low shot at goal which finally forces Lunev into action, the goalkeeper making a decent save.
40'

Bayer with the ball

The stats currently show that Leverkusen have had 63 per cent of possession, however, the Bundesliga side haven't been able to create an outstanding chance as yet.
37'

Qarabağ chance

Bayer have a let off after Juninho's cross is met by Andrade at the back post. The Cape Verde international fails to convert from a tight angle and close to the Leverkusen goal.
33'

Leverkusen bother

Xabi Alonso is looking on closely as his team struggle to break down hard-working opponents. Perhaps a tactical tweak is needed here from the Spanish coach.
28'

Hložek off target

Leverkusen look to hit back quickly but Adam Hložek can only head over from Grimaldo's centre.
26'

First blood to Qarabağ

The Horsemen hit the front through Yassine Benzia, who applies a tidy finish following some good work by Juninho to snaffle possession and supply the assist.
25'

Benzia

GOAL!

1:0
24'

Hosts hit the post

From a corner, Janković sends a deflected strike against the upright!
20'

Hložek denied

Adam Hložek has the ball in the Qarabağ net but his effort won't count as he was offside when converting Adli's pass.
18'

Grimaldo on the move

Grimaldo has a chance to run into space and when the full-back gets into a promising position, his cross fails to find a teammate.
15'

Steady pace

The game has yet to spark into life, with both sides knocking the ball around in these early stages. Juninho - who has already been booked - commits a foul on Andrich, before walking away sheepishly.
12'

Visitors push forward

Leverkusen are alive in attack and Tella forces a corner, which only eventually leads to Tapsoba sending in a cross that fails to cause much danger.
10'

Kovář saves

Bayer's second-choice shot stopper is alert to a Janković effort, the goalkeeper saving with relative ease.
8'

Juninho booked

Qarabağ forward Juninho sees yellow for a foul on Exequiel Palacios, who is making his return to the Leverkusen starting line-up tonight following five games out with a muscular injury.
6'

Up against it

The visitors are still trying to find their shape here as their opponents continue to pile on the early pressure in the rain.
3'

Qarabağ straight at it

The hosts have enjoyed a solid start here and get the game's first shot away through Andrade. His effort is blocked wide.
1'

Game on in Baku!

The ball is rolling on this Europa League Round of 16, first-leg encounter.

Teams out

Both sides have emerged onto the pitch at the Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium. We're moments away from kick-off.

Tough luck against German clubs

Qarabağ are yet to win against a team from Germany, losing seven of their eight meetings so far.

Goals from all over

While Leverkusen's leading Europa League goalscorer Victor Boniface is unavailable due to injury, a total of 10 players have scored for Die Werkself in the competition so far this term. In the Bundesliga, 15 have found the back of the net - Leverkusen have plenty of weapons in their arsenal.
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Team news

Qarabağ will be without Emin Jafarguliyev and Júlio Romão, who are both unavailable due to suspension, although Kevin Medina is amongst the substitutes after recovering from injury. With 21 goals in 40 games in all competitions this term, striker Juninho is the hosts' danger man.
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Team news

Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso makes eight changes to the side that started the weekend win against Cologne in the Bundesliga. Matěj Kovář is in goal for the visitors, who also bring in Borja Iglesias and Adam Hložek up top. Elsewhere, Edmond Tapsoba, Odilon Kossounou, Exequiel Palacios and Nathan Tella are all in from the get-go, as is Amine Adli.

Qarabağ starting XI

Lunev, Vešović, Mustafazade, B. Hüseynov (c), Bayramov - Andrade, Janković - Leandro Andrade, Benzia, Zoubir - Juninho

Qarabağ subs

Gugeshashvili, Ramazanov, Silva, Medvedev, Keyta, Xhixha, Isaev, A. Hüseynov, Medina, Akhundzade

Leverkusen starting XI

Kovář - Kossounou, Tah (c), Tapsoba, Grimaldo - Tella, Palacios, Andrich, Adli - Borja Iglesias, Hložek

Leverkusen subs

Hrádecký, Stanišić, Hincapié, Hofmann, Wirtz, Schick, Frimpong, Puerta, Xhaka

Coaching buddies

Gurban Gurbanov, Qarabağ coach since 2008, visited Xabi Alonso in Leverkusen in January to get an insight into his methods and attended a training session. Gurbanov welcomed Alonso on his arrival yesterday evening and presented him with a specially made silk carpet.

The long road to Baku

It took the Leverkusen squad close to five hours to fly to Azerbaijan yesterday, landing around 10pm local time. The team hotel was handily a mere 23 minutes' drive from the airport.

Familiar face in goal

Andrey Lunev kept goal three times for Leverkusen (twice in the Bundesliga and once in the Europa League) during a two-year spell before signing for Qarabağ last summer. He has since established himself as first-choice shot stopper for the Azerbaijani champions.
3:05
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Watch: Alonso steering Leverkusen to Bundesliga title glory

Unbeaten in 34 competitive games and 10 points clear of defending champions Bayern - is this Leverkusen's year?
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More from Leverkusen

Robert Andrich added in the pre-match press conference: "We saw in the group stage what we can expect there. We won 0-1 there but it wasn’t an easy game. They are strong in the offensive and it will not be as easy as people are making out."
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View from Leverkusen

Alonso has been speaking to the media on the eve of the game, saying: "It's good that we already know our opponent because it’s not easy to play there. It's no longer the group stage, we are in the knockout stages now and the moment is completely different. We need to play to that and be intelligent in our game."
3:32
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Watch: Bayer Leverkusen - strength, depth and a first Bundesliga title?

Qarabağ form

Despite holding a 4-2 first-leg lead, Qarabağ survived a Braga fightback in Baku to advance through the play-offs 6-5 on aggregate after extra-time to reach the knockout stages of a European competition for the first time in their history, having finished second in Group H behind Leverkusen. Domestically, the two-time defending champions of Azerbaijan are running away with things, boasting a 23-point lead at the top with 25 games played and well on course to retain the title with 11 matches to go. They beat Neftchi Baku 4-1 on Sunday and haven't lost in the league since October.
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Head-to-head

The two group encounters are the only previous times Leverkusen have come up against Azerbaijan's Qarabağ. Goals from Florian Wirtz, Victor Boniface, Edmond Tapsoba and a Grimaldo (pictured) brace helped Bayer to that 5-1 win at the BayArena on Matchday 3. It then took a 94th-minute Boniface penalty to maintain that 100 percent winning record in Baku.

The story so far

Leverkusen completed a perfect group stage in 2023, including victories against last-16 opponents Qarabağ (5-1 and 1-0). The Werkself also saw of Häcken of Sweden (4-0 and 2-0) and Molde of Norway (2-1 and 5-1) to book their place straight into the round of 16, bypassing the play-offs.
2:03
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Watch: Cologne 0-2 Leverkusen - highlights

Xabi Alonso's side extended their new German record for longest unbeaten run to 34 games with a 2-0 derby win away at Cologne on Sunday. The dynamic wing duo of Jeremie Frimpong and Alejandro Grimaldo got the goals to send Leverkusen 10 points clear at the Bundesliga summit.

Welcome!

Follow all of the action and build-up from Bayer Leverkusen's UEFA Europa League round of 16 first-leg clash against Qarabağ right here!