Lucas Alario scored twice as Bayer Leverkusen punched their ticket into next season’s UEFA Europa League with a 3-2 win over Hannover at the BayArena.
Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 Hannover
Goals: 1-0 Alario (3’), 2-0 Alario (17’), 3-0 Brandt (55’), 3-1 Füllkrug (90'). 3-2 Harnik (90+4')
Champions League aspirations aside, most of the Leverkusen-led talk centred on the retiring Stefan Kießling and the suspended Kevin Volland before kick-off, but Lucas Alario soon made sure the spotlight was shining on him, volleying home a stunning left-footed opener from the edge of the Hannover box. Die Werkself could have doubled their advantage minutes later, but Wendell endured a rare penalty-spot miss. Their second arrived soon after, though, Alario capitalising on Matthias Ostrzolek’s loose back pass to round Michael Esser in the visiting goal and steer home for 2-0. Charles Aranguiz – having teed up the opener – tried his luck from distance towards the end of the first half, but his effort stayed out and the sides went in for their half-time oranges with the scores at 2-0.
Alario twice came close to bagging his hat-trick before Julian Brandt put the game beyond doubt 10 minutes into the second half, racing onto Lars Bender’s pass before beating Esser one-on-one. With Hoffenheim beating Borussia Dortmund with less than 20 minutes to go, Leverkusen knew that they needed a further two goals to make the Champions League. They never came - indeed Niclas Füllkrug and Martin Harnik ended any hopes with a pair of late consolations - but Heiko Herrlich's men can nonetheless hold their heads up high after a fine attacking season which saw three goals today and 58 overall.
- Alario’s goals were his eighth and ninth of the Bundesliga campaign.Die Werkself have won their last 10 home games against Hannover, keeping a clean sheet in nine of those 10 games.Brandt ends the campaign with nine goals and three assists, making 2017/18 his most productive season to date.Bernd Leno has only conceded 10 goals in his 12 career Bundesliga games against Hannover.Despite their best efforts, Leverkusen will now go a fourth-consecutive season with Champions League football.Leverkusen were only two goals short of making it back to Europe’s top table, though.
Leverkusen: Leno – Jedvaj, L. Bender (c) (Kießling 83'), Tah, Wendell – Baumgartlinger (Kohr 23’), Aranguiz (Bellarabi 74') – Brandt, Havertz, Bailey – Alario
Unused subs: Özcan, S. Bender, Henrichs
Coach: Heiko Herrlich
Hannover:Esser –Hübers, Sane (c), Elez (Bebou 46’) – Korb, Fossum (Albornoz 74') Bakalorz, Ostrzolek – Harnik, Maier (Maina 63’) – Füllkrug
Unused subs: Tschauner, Hübner, Anton
Absentees:Prib (cruciate ligament), Klaus (adductor), Jonathas (hamstring), Sarenren Bazee (ill), Sorg (thigh)
Coach: Andre Breitenreiter