Rome – Bayer 04 Leverkusen suffered a setback in their pursuit of UEFA Champions League football this season after losing 1-0 away to SS Lazio in their play-off first leg on Tuesday evening.
Roger Schmidt’s men were put under pressure initially, as Lazio attackers Felipe Anderson and Miroslav Klose linked up well, but the guests stood firm and gradually got a foothold in the game. Indeed, it was Leverkusen who went closest to scoring in the first half, only for Lars Bender’s fierce long-distance strike to crash back off the post.
The visitors were the better team after the break and tested Lazio goalkeeper Etrit Berisha on several occasions through Admir Mehmedi and Hakan Calhanoglu, while Stefan Kießling thought he’d scored, only for his effort to be ruled out for offside. However, in the closing stages Balde Keita netted against the run of play for the hosts to give Lazio the advantage going into the second leg on Wednesday next week.
Man of the match
The Stadio Olimpico is an intimidating place to visit at the best of times, but even more so as a 19-year-old. Nevertheless, Leverkusen centre-back Jonathan Tah rose to the occasion and was sensational in defence, making countless timely interceptions and tackles to frustrate the hosts and keep his side in the tie.
In two-legged European ties, the tendency for the away team is usually to sit back, focus on keeping a clean sheet and hope to nick a goal at the other end. Leverkusen defied that traditional approach in Rome, however, and sought to attack whenever they could, committing Calhanoglu, Kießling, Bellarabi and Heung-Min Son forward and putting their hosts under relentless pressure.
Stats of the match
- Kießling won more challenges than any other player on the pitch (21).
- Wendell had more touches of the ball than any of his Leverkusen team-mates (76).
- Four Leverkusen players were booked over the course of the 90 minutes: Kießling, Wendell, Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Bernd Leno were all shown yellow cards.
Quote of the match
Roger Schmidt, Leverkusen coach: “In the return leg we’ll still have the chance to reach the Champions League group stage. And we’ll be playing at home.”
Lazio: Berisha - Basta, de Vrij (Gentiletti 89'), Mauricio, Lulic - Onazi (Milinkovic 53'), Biglia, Parolo - Candreva, Klose (Keita 46'), Anderson
Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Tah, Papadopoulos, Wendell - Bender, Kramer, Bellarabi, Calhanoglu (Brandt 84'), Son (Mehmedi 46') - Kießling (Kruse 90')
Goals: 1-0 (Keita 77')