Leaders Bayer Leverkusen leave it late again at RB Leipzig


Just as they did on Matchday 17 against Augsburg, Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen left it until injury time to net the most dramatic of winners to earn all three points, Piero Hincapie's last-gasp goal settling a classic encounter at the Red Bull Arena.

RB Leipzig 2-3 Bayer Leverkusen
Goals: 1-0 Xavi 7' (assist: Schlager), 1-1 Tella 47' (assist: Grimaldo), 2-1 Openda 56' (assist: Olmo), 2-2 Tah 63' (assist: Wirtz), 2-3 Hincapie 90'+1 (assist: Grimaldo) 

With both sides boasting an abundance of attacking talent, this game was billed as a potential Bundesliga blockbuster. It didn't disappoint. Table-toppers Leverkusen, so often on the front foot under Xabi Alonso, were quickly given a taste of their own medicine by a Leipzig side determined to bounce back from a Matchday 17 reverse against Eintracht Frakfurt. Die Roten Bullen's top scorer, Loïs Openda, drew a save from Lukáš Hrádecký with a snap shot early on. Soon afterwards, there was nothing the Finn could do to repel the game's opener. A sensation in his loan season in Saxony, Xavi added to his rocketing reputation with a gem. Benjamin Šeško left Jonathan Tah for dead before picking out Xaver Schlager on the left. The Austrian's cross was plucked out of the air by Xavi who, his back to goal, then hooked the ball around with his right foot before spinning and pinging a shot in at the near post with his left. Again Leipzig came. Dani Olmo fed Šeško who could only divert wide on the stretch. B04 momentarily gathered themselves to conjure a chance, Alejandro Grimaldo forcing Janis Blaswich into a two-handed stop. Yet - after Jeremie Frimpong limped out of proceedings - momentum soon switched back the other way with the busy Hrádecký twice denying Mohamed Simakan.  

Alonso's half-time words no doubt burning their ears, the Werkself emerged after the break with added focus and they were level within two minutes of the restart. Florian Wirtz, Hofmann and Grimaldo all worked together to provide for Patrik Schick but when the Czech failed to make contact, substitute Nathan Tella was there to knock in at the far post. Suddenly, it appeared that the visitors were in the ascendancy but an error from their own corner undid Leverkusen's good work. Xavi led the breakaway from the failed Bayer set-piece, the Dutchman providing a cross field pass for Olmo, who angled the ball back the other way first time. Openda's finish in off Hrádecký sent the ball high into the net. When Tah rose to head home Wirtz's corner seven minutes later, the Red Bull Arena braced itself for a rollercoaster finish. What the home fans werent't expecting as the game ticked into added time, though, was the sight of Hincapie nipping in at the back post to convert a Grimaldo corner. Advantage Leverkusen once more in what has emerged as a titanic title fight.

Match stats

  • Hincapie's winner was his first Bundesliga goal of the season. 
  • This is only the fifth time in Bundesliga history that a team has remained unbeaten in the first 18 matchdays.
  • Bayer have 48 points after 18 matchdays (15 wins, 3 draws). Previously, only Bayern Munich managed a better tally: in 2013/14 - 50 points - and 2015/16 (49), both under Pep Guardiola.
  • Xavi has racked up 12 goal involvements this term (five goals, seven assists).
  • As many as three of Tah's four Bundesliga goals this season have come from corners. 
  • Leverkusen have scored 12 goals from set-pieces this term, one more they managed from dead ball situations in the entire 2022/23 campaign.  
  • Openda - who also scored in the reverse fixture against Leverkusen - now has 12 goals this season and trails only Harry Kane and Serhou Guirassy on the top scorer's list. 

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Watch: Xabi Alonso: “An explosion of happiness”


Leipzig: Blaswich - Klostermann (c), Simakan (Henrichs 74'), Castello, Raum - Olmo (Baumgartner 74'), Seiwald (Kampl 74'), Schlager, Xavi (Elmas 84) - Openda, Šeško (Poulsen 74')
Unused subs: Gulácsi, Lenz, Bitshiabu, Baumgartner, Eduardo
Out: Haidara (international duty), Orban (knee)
Marco Rose  

Leverkusen: Hrádecký (c) - Stanišić, Tah, Hincapié - Frimpong (Tella 31'), Palacios (Andrich 88'), Xhaka, Grimaldo - Hofmann, Wirtz - Schick (Hložek 90'+2)
Unused subs: Kovář, Fosu-Mensah, Amiri, Mbamba, Puerta, Izekor
Out: Adli (international duty), Arthur (thigh), Boniface (groin), Kossounou (international duty), Tapsoba (international duty)
Coach: Xabi Alonso

Watch: Xavi on his pre-game ball-kissing ritual