Sinsheim - Bayer 04 Leverkusen continued their astonishing sequence of results against 1899 Hoffenheim, recording their eighth win in nine games with a controlled 2-1 victory away from home.
The visitors never looked back after Lars Bender gave them the lead, with Daniel Carvajal doubling their advantage shortly before the break. An improved second half showing did bring a consolation goal for the hosts, but it was not enough to prevent a seventh defeat of the season.
There was no sign of a European hangover for the visitors following their midweek UEFA Europa League defeat to Metalist Kharkiv. That was undoubtedly coach Sami Hyypiä's intention too, as the majority of the first eleven were rested for the trip to the Ukraine. The guests immediately seized control of proceedings, with Simon Rolfes and Bender dominating the midfield against deep-lying hosts.
Accordingly, Leverkusen's early efforts on goal were limited to pot-shots from distance as they worked out the best way to get past Hoffenheim. The breakthrough was not long coming either, as the home side failed to clear a left-wing free kick, allowing Bender to poke home from close range following Rolfes' flick on.
With the visitors clearly on top, Hoffenheim were restricted to sporadic counterattacks, but there was a distinct lack of support for their main attacking outlets Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland. The former nonetheless rattle Bernd Leno's crossbar before the break with a fine shot from the edge of the box. However, the visitors had the final say of the half, as Carvajal smartly finished off a flowing team move.
In Eren Derdiyok and Sven Schipplock, Hoffenheim coach Markus Babbel brought on two forwards for the second half and the hosts instantly became far more adventurous and now sought to take the initiative rather than merely reacting to Leverkusen's advances. Their boldness was duly rewarded when USA international Fabian Johnson cut inside from the left and curled a shot past Leno to give the hosts a lifeline.
Minutes later Andre Schürrle almost dampened their by now buoyant spirits with a sensational free kick from 30 yards that came back off the crossbar. Undeterred, Hoffenheim continued to press forward and went within a whisker of equalising after Firmino's fancy footwork took him past three defenders, allowing him to feed Schipplock on the right hand edge of the box. However, with only Leno to beat, the striker rushed his shot and blazed over.
As the match entered the closing stages, Leverkusen went into energy-conservation mode and ceased to seek another goal with the same desire. Try as they might, Hoffenheim struggled to gain possession and lost the ball too easily when they did get hold of it. The result continues Leverkusen's recent good run and moves them just one point behind second-place Borussia Dortmund.
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