Borussia Mönchengladbach battled hard to beat Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2-1 in a pulsating contest in Saturday's late game.
This had been billed as the game of the weekend between two of Germany's UEFA Champions League competitors, and both teams, each sporting some new faces, contributed to an enthralling match at the BORUSSIA-PARK.
Kevin Volland tested Yann Sommer early on, while Bernd Leno thwarted Raffael and Oscar Wendt with a brilliant double save on 21 minutes. The battle in midfield was fierce, with Bayer's Julian Baumgartlinger and Gladbach's Christoph Kramer, playing against his former team, both getting stuck into the challenges. Andre Hahn drew another good save from Leno, before Karim Bellarabi's daisy-cutter was tipped around the post by Sommer. Jonathan Tah then headed against the crossbar and Hahn was denied by a brilliant stop from Leno. The Germany international would not be denied a third time, however, capitalising on Tah's weak back-header to confidently fire the hosts in front at the end of a frantic first half.
The interval did precious little to dampen the two sides' attacking intent, with Leverkusen spurning two glorious chances to level things. First Kevin Kampl shot against the post when Volland was free for a tap-in, before Bellarabi failed to pick out the advancing Tin Jedvaj following a breakaway. As the second half wore on, the match became characterised by niggly fouls, with Wendell, Bellarabi and Lars Stindl all seeing yellow for cynical challenges or dissent. Julian Brandt and Joel Pohjanpalo were thrown on by Roger Schmidt as the visitors sensed the game slipping away, and the latter's introduction proved to be a masterstroke, with the Finn nodding home Bellarabi's knock-back with ten minutes to go.
There remained a sting in the tail, however, and Bayer's joy was short-lived as Stindl raced on to Thorgan Hazard's pass to finish coolly under the body of Leno, earning the home side maximum points in a game that very much lived up to the pre-match hype.
Record signing Volland led Leverkusen's attack, but it was clear they missed the potency of Mexican international Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, who remains out with a hand injury. Gladbach, on the other hand, exhibited their strength in depth perfectly, with Hahn coming into the side to continue his good form and Hazard emerging from the bench to provide the winner.
- Hahn has scored six goals in his last five league appearances stretching back to last season, including a brace in a 2-1 win over Leverkusen back in May.Hahn's goal was Borussia's 2,800th in the Bundesliga.Pohjanpalo's debut Bundesliga goal came from his very first shot. It was also only his second touch in the match.Stindl netted his first-ever goal on the opening matchday of a season, and in his first Borussia game as club captain. What a way to celebrate your 28th birthday!
Gladbach: Sommer - Elvedi, Christensen, Jantschke (Vestergaard 46') - Strobl (c.), Kramer - Traore (Johnson 61'), Stindl, Wendt - Hahn, Raffael
Leverkusen: Leno - Jedvaj, Tah, Toprak (c.), Wendell - Aranguiz, Baumgartlinger - Kampl, Calhanoglu (Mehmedi 64'), Bellarabi - Volland (Brandt 64')