Vedad Ibisevic put the guests in front from the penalty spot early on, but two goals in the last 10 minutes, the first a penalty from Stefan Kießling and the second from Lars Bender, denied Stuttgart at the death.
Ibisevic spot on
Leverkusen’s best-laid plans were soon challenged when Ömer Toprak had to leave the field after clashing with Ibisevic. After a brief warm-up, Daniel Schwaab took his place at the heart of a defence which got caught out by a long ball forward, with Philipp Wollscheid giving away a penalty for a foul on Ibisevic. The Bosnian stepped up to the spot himself to beat Bernd Leno, who dived the right way but could not get near to a well-placed penalty.
After overcoming their initial shock, Leverkusen responded with Kießling heading over the crossbar when it looked every bit like he was about to nod in his 16th of the season. The hosts had the bit between their teeth, but Stuttgart offered strong resistance. Buoyed by their passage to the semi-finals of the DFB Cup on Wednesday, Bruno Labbadia’s men had an air of invincibility about them.
Serdar Tasci emphasised that when he made a goalline clearance to deny Kießling, whose shot had beaten Sven Ulreich. For the second time in the matter of minutes, the home fans’ celebrations were stifled before they started with Kießling left wondering what he had to do to etch his name on the scoresheet.
Another effort from the Bundesliga’s top marksman in 2012 was thwarted by Ulreich early in the second half as Bayer refused to give up the chase. Meanwhile, former Stuttgart goalkeeper Bernd Leno showed he was alert, despite much of the action taking place at the opposite end of the field, when he plucked the ball out of the reach of the predatory Ibisevic.
Gotoku Sakai was next up to be denied by Leno, who was starting to see a little bit too much of the ball for his liking as Stuttgart began to do some pressing of their own. Christian Gentner shot wide as the visitors looked to land the killer blow, but the decisive strike came at the other end of the field when Kießling finally got his reward.
He swept in the second penalty of the game after Christian Molinaro handled the ball inside the area. Sensing victory was in the air, Leverkusen laid siege to the Stuttgart goal, getting their reward when Kießling’s header was parried by Ulreich to Bender, who accepted the gift to earn Leverkusen only their second win in their last eight matches.
Line-ups and statistics