The hosts went in front through a Tin Jedvaj crackerjack - Leverkusen’s 2,000th Bundesliga goal - but two breakaway efforts from Fin Bartels and Franco di Santo put Werder in front. Goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Heung-Min Son tipped the balance back into the home side’s favour only for Sebastian Prödl to ensure a pulsating, end-to-end game finished all square.
Lightning strikes twice
Roger Schmidt was able to welcome captain Lars Bender back into the starting line-up after injury, but it was his central midfield partner Gonzalo Castro that came closest to opening the scorning. After Hakan Calhanoglu’s neat pass, the 27-year-old crashed a booming drive past the keeper and against the inside of the post.
The away side’s custodian Raphael Wolf then saved comfortably from another Castro effort, but the lead was not long in coming for the hosts. Stefan Kießling found the onrushing Jedvaj, and the 18-year-old took aim before rifling an unstoppable effort in off the underside of the bar for his second goal in as many games.
Bartels’ sucker-punch, Calhanoglu classic
It was a setback for the visitors, but how they will have counted their lucky stars to not be further behind at the break, let alone on level terms. Fellow 18-year-old Levin Öztunali hooked a half-volley against the crossbar after Emir Spahic had diverted a loose ball from a corner against a post. Wolf also saved brilliantly from Kießling when the striker seemed certain to add a second, and stood up tall to beat away a Karim Bellarabi strike.
Bremen, hitherto completely under the cosh, then provided the sting in an incredible first-half tale by equalising just before the break, the ball running kindly for Bartels to arrow an accomplished finish into Bernd Leno’s near corner. Robin Dutt’s men had chosen the perfect time to strike, and things got even better for them when di Santo kept his cool to finish a superb counter-attack and put them 2-1 up on the hour.
Prödl has last laugh
The home side, and their fans, seemed shell-shocked, but they were level just moments later after a moment of genius from Calhanoglu, the Turkish midfielder curling home a brilliant free-kick. The game was in the balance for the next few minutes as both teams upped the ante with more than one yellow card being dished out, but Bayer were back in the ascendancy and duly went in front again when Son fired home after a neat shimmy on the edge of the area.
The game became increasingly stretched in the closing stages as the guests threw everything forward in search of an equaliser, and their prayers were answered with five minutes remaining as Prödl hammered home from close range to spark delirium among the travelling fans, preserve Bremen’s unbeaten run and end Bayer’s 100 per cent start to the 52nd Bundesliga campaign.
Line-ups and statistics
Bernie Reeves reporting from the BayArena