RB Leipzig edge Bayer Leverkusen in tight Sunday evening affair
By James Westmacott
Bayer Leverkusen’s dodgy record against RB Leipzig continued, with the home side still having never triumphed in a home game against Die Roten Bullen. To this day, Blau-Weiß Berlin remain the only other team Leverkusen have failed to beat at home in the Bundesliga.
|Dominik Szoboszlai.||Photo: Steffen Prößdorf, CC BY-SA 4.0|
The game started quietly, with both teams settling into their respective structures, passing the ball crisply and precisely without making too many mistakes. The big-game nature of this contest was neatly elucidated, with both sides tacitly showing the opposition a significant amount of respect, happy to merely seek to gain a foothold in the game without applying too much relenting pressure. With neither side creating even a half-chance within the first 20 minutes, it was the visitors who edged the possession statistics.
Though the hosts started to take control of the game in the second period of the first half, beginning to dominate the ball, without successfully finding a way through. The first real chance of the evening fell to Leverkusen’s Czech striker Patrik Schick, who provided the game with the first shot on target, firing straight at the goalkeeper, leaving Leipzig goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi with a routine save to make. Schick also found himself on the end of another half-chance just before the break, this time heading wide after just positioning himself skilfully in front of the Leipzig defender. Both sides were missing their inventive playmakers, Florian Wirtz, unavailable for Leverkusen through injury, and 17-goal striker Christopher Nkunku on the bench for the visitors.
The game went into the break goalless, after an unexciting first period of resolute tactical organisation and footballing precision.
The second half began with a sense of clamour, after Nkunku’s introduction seemingly sparked the Leipzig attack into life. With Die Roten Bullen now on the front foot, Leipzig won a free-kick just outside the box in a dangerous position, before striking it just over the bar. The two Champions League-chasing sides traded some decent chances, with Patrik Schick consistently bestowing his side’s most deadly threats.
But after 69 minutes, finally the deadlock was broken. After some relatively composed passing across the Leverkusen back five, the ball made its way to wing back Odilon Kossounou. Looking to play the ball inside to the nearest midfield man, the pass was poorly executed, missing his intended target entirely, and instead finding Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams who stood primed to pounce. Adams then played the ball first time, forwards into the feet of Nkunku, who took the ball on the turn, darting into the space before him, and firing directly into the feet of Dominik Szoboszlai on the edge of the penalty box, giving the Frenchman his 13th assist of a remarkable personal season. The Hungarian lynchpin took an exquisite touch with his right-foot to his left, taking the ball away beguilingly from Leverkusen defender Jonathan Tah, before gorgeously slotting the ball into the home side’s net with a cultured outside of the boot strike.
1-0 the game finished, with RB Leipzig leapfrogging hosts Leverkusen into 3rd place, whilst Die Werkself drop down to 4th. With four games to go, both sides look relatively well placed to hold onto a top four position, though with defeat here, Leverkusen may be looking nervously over their shoulder.