Honours were even after a tense first half, but Max Kruse’s calm finish from Patrick Herrmann’s cross five minutes into the second period set the Foals on the way to a first home win over Leverkusen in 26 years. The opener allowed Lucien Favre’s side to counter, which they did to devastating effect when Herrmann doubled the lead in the 81st minute, before Ibrahima Traore added a late third.
Despite two changes from last week’s home win over FC Bayern München, die Werkself were in fine fettle in the opening stages. Julian Brandt and Heung-Min Son buzzed threateningly out wide, and were crucial to the high pressing game which prevented the hosts venturing outside their own half in the opening quarter-hour. Indeed, given Leverkusen’s high-intensity start, it was unsurprising that they enjoyed the game’s first chance, Wendell firing over from the edge of the box in the 12th minute.
As Gladbach came to terms with Roger Schmidt’s side’s tactics, however, they began to settle, with Bernd Leno forced into an excellent save to deny Kruse from close range after 20 minutes. Ömer Toprak produced a good tackle to prevent Raffael soon afterwards, while Christoph Kramer was next to threaten. With Gladbach in control after the visitors’ early pressure, Leno was again called into action by Herrmann on the half-hour mark.
Kruse strikes first
In response, Leverkusen upped the tempo, squeezing the Gladbach midfield and countering at pace through Brandt and Son. With the momentum swinging back towards the visitors, Stefan Kießling’s header was ruled out for offside, before the South Korean’s low drive from the edge of the box brought a sprawling stop from Yann Sommer as the sides went into the break with the game, somehow, still goalless.
The deadlock was, however, broken five minutes into the second half. Attacking at pace after Son had fired over the bar, Granit Xhaka’s quick free kick sent Herrmann free, whose cutback was converted calmly by an arriving Kruse at the back post to give Gladbach the lead. Kießling came within inches of an immediate response from Wendell’s cross at the other end, before Raffael fired wide with the goal gaping after 58 minutes.
Herrmann to the fore
Toprak headed wide shortly after the hour for Leverkusen, but it was to prove an isolated effort as the goal allowed Gladbach to sit deeper and rely on their imposing back four. The visitors pushed ever higher in search for an equaliser, but their desperation and inability to create chances in the face of the hosts’ organised rearguard was underlined when Wendell fired hopelessly over from distance in the 72nd minute.
Any lingering Leverkusen hopes were extinguished ten minutes from time when Leno could only parry Kramer’s powerful shot from the edge of the box and Herrmann poked home the rebound. Substitute Traore then rifled in a stunning effort from outside the area to conclude proceedings, sending the home fans into ecstasy and leaving Gladbach with one foot in the group stages of Europe’s premier club competition.
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