The Swabians fought back from three goals down thanks to strikes from Timo Werner, Florian Klein and Martin Harnik after Heung-Min Son’s double and Karim Bellarabi had given Leverkusen a seemingly comfortable three-goal half-time lead.
Boosted by their streak of four competitive games without a defeat, Leverkusen settled into their rhythm quickly, dictating both pace and possession in the early stages against a deep-lying Stuttgart side. Their dominance paid off after four minutes when Son collected from Stefan Kießling to slot in from close range.
The South Korean was at the heart of all Leverkusen's attacking efforts, imposing a constant threat on the Stuttgart defence. He made it two only five minutes later, picking up Thorsten Kirschbaum’s loose clearance and hammering the ball into the back of the net from a good 30 yards.
Werner pulls one back
Antonio Rüdiger gave the guests their first serious warning at the other end with a promising header near the half-hour mark, but things soon went from bad to worse when, after Kießling’s effort from a tight angle bounced off the post, Bellarabi crowned a fantastic solo effort to hand Bayer a comfortable three-goal lead.
Stuttgart were never going to give in on their own patch, however, with Armin Veh’s men emerging for the second half completely rejuvenated. Martin Harnik came close to pulling one back for the Swabians, swerving marginally wide, before Werner went one better, nodding Klein’s cross into the far left corner.
Harnik to the rescue
The hosts managed to keep up the pressure against a detereorating Leverkusen side, bossing possession and carrying the far greater threat as the game progressed. The 2007 Bundesliga champions soon saw their efforts pay further dividends when Klein hammered the ball home from long range, leaving Bernd Leno in the Leverkusen goal with no chance whatsoever.
Sensing their chance to snatch an unlikely draw, Stuttgart threw men forward in the final stages, and it was the tireless Harnik who sent the home side level with 13 minutes on the clock, nodding in substitute Filip Kostic’s pinpoint free-kick to make it 3-3. Roberto Hilbert passed up one final chance to give Leverkusen a dramatic late win as a thrilling contest ended all square.
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