Bayer 04 Leverkusen moved up to third in the stadnings after coming from a goal down to beat SV Darmstadt 98 2-1 on Matchday 21.
Perhaps showing the strain following their midweek DFB Cup quarter-final defeat to SV Werder Bremen, Leverkusen were second best for much of the first half. Darmstadt’s tenacious and direct approach did not sit well with the visitors, who fell behind shortly before the half-hour mark when Sandro Wagner headed home his seventh Bundesliga goal of the season from. Questionable defending played its part, with Wendell heading a long throw across his own box and goalkeeper Bernd Leno unable to keep hold of Jan Rosenthal’s initial strike.
With Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez sidelined through injury, Leverkusen head coach Roger Schmidt turned to dead-ball specialist Hakan Calhanoglu early in the second half. The move proved to be a masterstoke, with Aytac Sulu inadvertently glancing the Turkey international’s 62nd-minute free kick into the net to bring the visitors level. Jerome Gondorf forced a flying save from Leno almost immediately, but a breakaway goal from Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt proved a bridge too far for Dirk Schuster’s tiring charges.
Man of the match
Kevin Kampl had a hard time at former club Borussia Dortmund, but he has fast become an integral player at Leverkusen. The Slovenia international bossed the midfield in Darmstadt and showed great composure to set up the winning goal.
It was not one for the purists, but Leverkusen will not care one bit. They are unbeaten in six and firmly back in the running for the UEFA Champions League places.
- Darmstadt have scored a league-high nine goals from headers this season.
- Four of Wagner’s seven Bundesliga goals this season have been headers.
- With an average age of 23 years and seven months, it was the youngest side Leverkusen head coach Roger Schmidt had put out all season.
- 10 of Darmstadt’s 22 goals have gone from set pieces; two from throw-ins.
- Leverkusen have only lost one of the nine Bundesliga games in which Brandt has scored.
Darmstadt: Leno - Mathenia - Jungwirth, Sulu (c), Rajkovic, Caldirola - Niemeyer, Gondorf (Platte 80’) - Heller, Kempe - Rosenthal (Vrancic 69’) - Wagner
Leverkusen: Leno - Jedvaj, Tah, Toprak (c), Wendell - Frey (Calhanoglu 57’), Kampl - Bellarabi, Brandt, Mehmedi - Kießling