Augsburg - Top-four hopefuls Bayer 04 Leverkusen put an end to a run of six league games without a win courtesy of a hard-fought 3-1 triumph over FC Augsburg on Wednesday evening.
Stefan Kießling’s sixth goal in as many games against Augsburg drew first blood and, though Tobias Werner restored parity approaching the hour-mark, late goals from Heung-Min Son and Emre Can ensured it was the visitors who left with all three points.
Leverkusen head coach Sami Hyypiä made three changes to his starting line-up in the hope of arresting his side’s dramatic slump in form. However, with Augsburg making the more promising start to proceedings by way of intense pressing and unerring energy levels, the visitors struggled to find their feet in the opening exchanges.
Andre Hahn was proving a constant menace down the left flank, but having failed to capitalise on their strong start, the hosts soon found themselves behind on the scoreboard as the result of a classic counter-attack. Son released Gonzalo Castro down the right, whose deflected cross allowed Kießling to beat his man with his first touch before firing across goal and into the bottom corner with his second.
Undeterred having conceded, Augsburg continued to be the more active and courageous side, but in being limited to crossing from wide positions, regularly failed to produce the final pass to break down Bayer’s backline, with Kevin Vogt and Hahn both snatching at half-chances. At the other end, Castro ruffled the top of the net from 30 yards before Son’s effort on the stroke of half time was ruled for offside, forcing Leverkusen to settle for a narrow lead at the break.
Augsburg had never managed to overturn a one-goal half-time deficit to collect three points coming into the game and almost fell further behind, with Marwin Hitz forced to palm Son’s early effort away from danger. Far from raising the white flag, though, the hosts pushed forward in search of an equaliser, but Tobias Werner was unable to get the better of the onrushing Bernd Leno with a close-range snapshot.
Reaping the reward
However, the winger had to wait less than ten minutes to finally reward his side for their endeavour in the encounter as he met Ronny Philp’s cross - Augsburg's 27th of the game - to plant a header beyond the helpless Leno. Werner should have arguably doubled his tally soon after, but having burst into the box on the left, promptly dragged his effort wide of the far post.
Augsburg continued to look the more likely to produce a winning goal as Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker’s late header was cleared off the line by Guardado. However, in much the same way as they did in the first half, Leverkusen needed just one chance to land the knockout punch with Son beating Hitz from the tightest of angles. Can then capped off a surging solo run with a tidy finish in off the post, wrapping up a potentially pivotal three points for Hyypiä’s men.
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