Bayer 04 Leverkusen got back to winning ways with a 1-0 success over Hamburger SV, claiming their first victory in five Bundesliga games thanks to Albin Ekdal's own goal.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 1-0 Hamburger SV
Goals: 1-0 Ekdal (o.g. 18')
Eighth at kick-off, Leverkusen began the game playing the kind of football more fitting of a team that were third as recently as Matchday 21. Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez nearly bagged his 15th goal of the campaign with Die Werkself's first attack, but he headed narrowly wide. Rene Adler scrambled another header - this time from Ömer Toprak - past the post before Leverkusen deservedly broke the deadlock. Julian Brandt powered forward before seeing his cross-cum-shot deflected into the Hamburg goal via the unfortunate Ekdal.
Hamburg improved in the second half and were close to pulling back onto level terms when Aaron Hunt back-heeled the ball into the path of Artjoms Rudnevs, but the Latvian was denied his third goal in five starts after a point-blank save from Bernd Leno in the home goal. Rudnevs then tried to lob Leno before connecting beautifully with a volley soon after, but each time the 'keeper saved acrobatically. Leverkusen ended the match with ten men when Tin Jedvaj was sent off for dissent moments after receiving an initial yellow card for a foul, but the hosts nonetheless held out for a 1-0 win that lifts them one place to seventh.
Man of the match
Hakan Calhanoglu. With Lars Bender nursing a thigh injury, the significantly less mobile Kyriakos Papadopoulos was tasked with anchoring the Leverkusen midfield. Calhanoglu covered the most distance for the hosts (11.59 km) and had the second most touches of the ball (68) to take the pressure off the Greek international centre-back, and his 19-year-old midfield partner Brandt.
Fortune favours the injury-free. Leverkusen looked like favourites for UEFA Champions League qualification before injuries and suspensions denied them of star performers Chicharito, Toprak and Stefan Kießling in recent weeks, in which time they dropped eight of nine available points. With the former two starting and Kießling joining from the bench, it would not now be safe to bet against Die Werkself making up the three-point deficit on fourth with 24 points left to play for.
- Leverkusen fielded their youngest ever starting XI, with only Toprak and Chicharito over 25 years of age.Hamburg can be relatively sure of safety despite their defeat. No team has ever gone down with their current total of 31 points after 26 Matchdays.Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt - back in the dugout after a three-game suspension - celebrated his 49th birthday on the day of the game.This fixture has never ended 0-0 at Leverkusen's BayArena.Leno has not missed a minute of Bundesliga football since November 2012.
Leverkusen: Leno - Jedvaj, Toprak (c), Tah, Wendell - Papadopoulos, Frey (Ramalho 76') - Bellarabi (Kruse 60'), Calhanoglu, Brandt - Chicharito (Kießling 69')
Hamburg: Adler - G. Sakai (Diekmeier 46'), Djourou (c), Cleber, Ostrzolek - Ekdal, Holtby (Lasogga 77') - N. Müller, Hunt, Ilicevic (Drmic 61') - Rudnevs