Hanover - Bayer 04 Leverkusen put the brakes on a five-game competitive losing streak with a 1-1 draw at Hannover 96 on Matchday 24 - thanks in no small part to goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
The Germany Under-21 keeper saved Szabolcs Huszti's third-minute spot-kick to keep Bayer in the hunt early on, in the process taking his personal penalty-stopping record up to a remarkable five for the season.
That leaves Leno just one shy of Thomas Zander's all-time Bundesliga record of six for TSV 1860 Munich, set back in 1979/80. In all, his professional record of eight saves from the spot out of a possible 17 represents a 47 percent success rate - the highest of any Bundesliga keeper to have faced 11 or more penalties. As the 22-year-old revealed to bundesliga.com after the game at Hannover, however, individual stats come a clear second to those of the team...
bundesliga.com: Bernd Leno, that was your fifth penalty save of the season - what's your secret?
Bernd Leno: There's no secret. I just don't commit myself too early, so whoever's taking it has to decide which way to go.
bundesliga.com: Did you remember which way Huszti went when he scored two against you from the spot last season?
Leno: No, you can't go on the assumption he's always going to choose the same corner anyway.
bundesliga.com: So you don't have an archive at home on who prefers which side of the net, then?
Leno (laughs): No, you always need a bit of luck to keep out a penalty.
bundesliga.com: You're now just one save away from Thomas Zander's one-season record of six...
Leno: We're giving too many penalties away. I'd prefer it if the team didn't concede so many.
bundesliga.com: A point earned after five straight losses (four in the Bundesliga, ed.) - are you satisfied with a 1-1 draw?
Leno: We didn't play well, so we have to be content with the point.
bundesliga.com: It's enough to keep Leverkusen ahead of FC Schalke in third place. How important is that?
Leno: How did Schalke do?
bundesliga.com: They won 4-0. (against Hoffenheim, ed.)
Leno: Then we're only ahead of them on goal difference now. It's important for our morale all the same. Obviously we can feel the heat behind us. We urgently need to start picking up points again and that calls for a lot more hard work.
bundesliga.com: Bayer have a very tough week coming up now... (with away games at Paris Saint-Germain FC in the UEFA Champions League and FC Bayern in the Bundesliga, ed.)
Leno: We're already out of the Champions League, but we don't intend to get slaughtered in Paris. And at Bayern, we have the advantage that nobody expects anything of us.
bundesliga.com: What are your plans for June and July?
Leno: To go on holiday.
bundesliga.com: Not to Brazil for the World Cup?
Leno: Obviously I'm still hoping to hop on board the World Cup plane. That would be fantastic.
Jürgen Blöhs reporting from Hanover