Leverkusen - Bayer 04 Leverkusen slumped to a first home defeat of the season in Matchday 16's conclusion, going down 1-0 to a resilient, well-organised Eintracht Frankfurt outfit.
Marco Russ' header just after the hour mark was the difference between the sides as Armin Veh's Frankfurt picked up a much-needed first away win, despite Joselu's missed penalty and the best efforts of Heung Min Son, Robbie Kruse and Stefan Kießling.
Of the two sides that had been in action in Europe during midweek, Eintracht showed far fewer signs of tired legs, despite fielding their oldest starting line-up of the season. The visitors pinned Leverkusen back and provided an early demonstration of their game plan when Sebastian Jung swept in a deep cross from the right which was dangerously allowed to bounce, with Constant Djakpa drawing a routine save out of Bernd Leno with a soft volley.
Eintracht’s next opportunity rendered Leno helpless when Jan Rosenthal met another Jung cross with his head, only to steer it onto the opposite post with Bayer’s back four caught uncharacteristically flat-footed. Emre Can from left-back was the only one of Sami Hyypiä’s men trying to force the issue, driving up the left but usually finding no-one in support apart from the odd flickers of danger from Kruse and Son.
Kruse and Son struggle
The pair toiled on either flank, but Leverkusen, although restricting Eintracht to no real chances after Rosenthal’s twelfth-minute effort hit the woodwork, passed the half-hour mark without a shot for the first time this season – an indication of their lethargy. Kruse, dropping in between the lines, eventually won a dangerous free-kick which Gonzalo Castro fired wide. Kießling, providing a reference point with Kruse and Son interchanging behind him, then had a header cleared by Carlos Zambrano moments before the end of a half in which the visitors were never unduly threatened.
They were under pressure, however, immediately after the restart. Ten minutes into the second half, Leverkusen had mustered five dangerous attempts on Kevin Trapp’s goal, as two Kruse volleys came closest to opening the scoring, while Son’s long-range strike would have led to a goal had Can been quicker to react after the Frankfurt custodian’s weak parry.
Russ hits against the run of play
Despite Leverkusen’s sudden control, it was Leno who was beaten for the opener. A quickly-taken free-kick made its way to Jung on the right-flank whose inch-perfect cross was met by Russ rising over a passive Philipp Wollscheid. The rapturous travelling fans, hoping to celebrate their first win on the road all campaign, were nearly quietened two minutes after the goal when Giulio Donati drew a good save from Trapp, but Leverkusen’s attempts not to suffer a first home defeat looked doomed.
Eintracht’s solidity based on both Zambrano and Bamba Anderson marshalling Kießling, ensured the hosts were limited to few late chances. Indeed, Djakpa, his set-piece accuracy honed after an excellent European strike, so nearly doubled the advantage moments before a Leverkusen counter was wasted by Ömer Toprak heading over unmarked. Despite Leno's superb late penalty save from Joselu - the game was already up for die Werkself, whose title hunt suffered a damaging blow.
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