Paulinho's goals and Gerardo Seoane's substitutions give Die Werkself three important points against Wolfsburg.
|Paulinho.||Photo: Bayer 04 Leverkusen|
The first half started as expected, with both teams fighting to gain control of the match and with the possession changing every few seconds. Each team was pressing high when possible and looking for long passes and through balls between the gap of the centre-backs.
Precisely this way Bayer Leverkusen got the first chance of the match. Five minutes into the game, Mitchel Bakker launched a pass from his own half behind Lacroix's and Mbabu's backs and found Amine Adli, whose shot was easily captured by Pervan. Just a couple minutes later, Adli would be booked for a late tackle on Lacroix.
Leverkusen's domain for the first 15 minutes was clear and their best chances were yet to come.
Shortly after, Odilon Kossounou intercepted the ball in Wolfsburg's half when Die Wölfe where trying to build up possession and gave Diaby a great chance, saved only by Bornauw's quick effort. The Frenchman had gotten away, and was very erratic throughout the whole match.
Amine Adli had the clearest chance of the first half after a great pass by Demirbay and completely obliterated it shooting over the bar.
Adli's position the first half was key, acting on the same line as Diaby, which allowed Bayer to form a 3-4-2-1 on offense while setting defensively on a 5-3-2 or a 5-2-3 depending on the height of the pressing.
Wolfsburg woke up after an astonishing free kick by Maximilian Arnold that Hradecky saved with the help of the crossbar.
From that point on, Maximilian Arnold started to control and direct the game. Arguably the best player for Die Wölfe today, he sometimes switched positions with Schlager and was present every time Wolfsburg had the Leverkusen under control.
However, the team was not able to take advantage of the passages of the match they were in control, not finishing the plays with the enough quality to produce a real threat.
Sardar Azmoun didn't make much of an impact, and his only notable contribution was a shot that went by very close to goal after a good build up play by Die Werkself.
The second half started exactly as the first one ended – with Wolfsburg in control of the ball and limiting Bayer to a few counter-attacks that meant no harm.
Lukas Nmecha had a great opportunity of scoring after an exquisite pass from Max Kruse but the pitch had a different idea, as Nmecha slipped just before hitting he ball. The ex-Union Berlin striker looked frustrated throughout the game as the pace and intensity of the match did not suit his characteristics.
Jonas Wind then hit the right post with a crossed shot after a sweet combination of passes involving Arnold, Schlager and Mbabu.
Karim Bellarabi almost scored an Olympic Goal but Pervan reacted quick enough to block it.
Gerardo Seoane woke up his team by bringing in Charles Aranguiz and Lucas Alario for Karim Bellarabi and Sardar Azmoun.
The Swiss' changes were immediately replied by Florian Kohfeldt, Waldschmidt, Baku and Aster Vranckx in; Wind, Mbabu and Schlager out.
Wolfsburg did three like-for-like substitutions, with the only tactical change being that Nmecha was now acting as a centre-forward, looking for the spaces behind the defensive line.
Meanwhile, Leverkusen changed to a line of four, with Aranguiz acting as a pivot alongside Andrich. Later, Adli and Kossounou left the pitch to make room for Paulinho and Sinkgraven.
Seoane's masterful reading of the game proved to be accurate, as Leverkusen regained control of the match and started to attack with more danger while limiting Wolfsburg's offensive chances.
In the 85th minute, Jonathan Tah saved an almost certain goal from Waldschmidt with a perfectly timed tackle.
Just moments later, Paulinho broke the deadlock. Vranckx was stripped by Aranguiz, Paulinho closed in to the area and scored with a shot that slightly touched Bornauw and confuses Pervan, who could have done more.
In the last minute of the match, Paulinho closed the deal with a great header after being left alone.
Bayer Leverkusen, who are third, now have three-point cushion to RB Leipzig in fourth.