Kevin Volland scored a second-half hat-trick as Bayer Leverkusen's top-four chase gained momentum with an impressive win against fellow European hopefuls Eintracht Frankfurt at the BayArena on Matchday 30.
Despite fielding their oldest line-up since 2010 (average age: 28.6), Frankfurt made a sprightly start. Niko Kovac's side enjoyed plenty of possession, although that allowed Leverkusen to counter-attack with regularity and the hosts had twice gone close through Volland by the time Julian Brandt opened the scoring, cleverly diverting Kai Havertz's cross in from a tight angle. Frankfurt's response was as instant as it was well-worked; within two minutes, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Marius Wolf took advantage of the gaps between the Leverkusen lines, Wolf teeing up Marco Fabian inside the box to finish calmly. Leon Bailey looked Bayer's best hope of another goal before the break, but the Jamaican was marshalled well by the Eagles' seasoned defensive line.
Bailey came the closest yet after the restart, his long-range effort rattling the bar as Leverkusen piled on the pressure. With Havertz increasingly orchestrating his side's forays forward, the hosts were irresistible at times, but Volland spurned two chances, shooting over and then straight at Lukas Hradecky. The forward was less wasteful with his next chance as Leverkusen finally made their dominance count: when the ball broke on the edge of the box in the 71st minute, Volland reacted quickest, shaking off David Abraham and poking past Hradecky. Volland was similarly clinical when the next chance arrived seven minutes later, tapping Karim Bellarabi's cut-back into the empty net. The same duo combined with minutes left, the substitute teeing up Volland, who made no mistake from close range to complete his hat-trick; Leverkusen's top-four chase continues apace.
Man of the match
Brandt and Havertz (two assists on his landmark appearance) deserve a mention, but Volland's display underlined the value of persistence. At first he didn't succeed, but he tried and tried again, scoring three times in the second half and drawing the deserved acclaim of the BayArena public.
@kevin_volland hit a 17 minute hat-trick as @bayer04fussball turned on the style in the second half against @eintrachtfrankfurt #B04SGE . . . #B04 #Leverkusen #Bayer04 #Werkself #stärkebayer #Bundesliga #Football #Soccer #fussball #futbol #goals #lovefootball #thebeautifulgame #instasport #team #soccerislife #footy #skills #matchday #player #match #footballgame #ball
- At the age of 18 years and 307 days, Havertz became the youngest ever Bundesliga player to 50 top-flight appearances.
- Bayer keeper Bernd Leno made his 300th competitive appearance for the club.
- Brandt's goal was his 26th in the Bundesliga, but only his second with his head.
- Brandt has scored four goals in his last six top-flight outings.
- Fabian's goal was his first in the Bundesliga since scoring a brace against Augsburg on 22 April 2017.
- Volland has scored 14 goals this season; this was his first-ever Bundesliga hat-trick.
- This fixture has never ended 0-0 in the Bundesliga
Leverkusen: Leno – L. Bender (c), S. Bender, Retsos, Henrichs – Baumgartlinger, Aranguiz – Brandt, Havertz (Kohr 87'), Bailey (Bellarabi 75') – Volland
Unused subs: Özcan, Kießling, Jedvaj, Frey, Yurchenko
Absentees: Wendell (ankle), Alario (suspended), Pohjanpalo (ankle)
Coach: Heiko Herrlich
Frankfurt: Hradecky - Abraham (c), Hasebe, Falette - Da Costa, Fernandes, De Guzman, Willems (Chandler 70') - Fabian, Boateng (Haller 63')- Wolf (Jovic 78')
Unused subs: Zimmermann, Gacinovic, Russ, Barkok
Absentees: Salcedo (collarbone), Mascarell (foot), Mbouhoum (knee), Dadashov (disciplined by club), Rebic (calf)
Coach: Niko Kovac
Watch: Bailey: "Always dominating!"