A dramatic stoppage time equalizer from Augsburg ‘keeper, Marwin Hitz, denied Leverkusen all three points in a pulsating Champions League contender match at the Impuls Arena.
The incredible climax to the game meant that Leverkusen have won only once in the five games since Winterpause, but remain only two points off Schalke in 4th and Saturday’s opponents, Augsburg in 5th. Worries will mount as for the second week in a row Bayer conceded a stoppage time goal, which has cost them a vital three points and ground on their competitors in the Champions League race.
Fresh from scoring four (but still losing in stoppage time) against Wolfsburg, Leverkusen adopted a policy of attrition in the opening stages. They were keen to allow Karim Bellarabi creative freedom which he has used to Bayer’s gain on several occasions this season.
Josip Drmic, who was preferred to Stefan Kießling, justified Roger Schmidt’s selection. Drmic scored the only goal of the first half, slotting past eventual hero Marwin Hitz, who had just returned from injury after being out of action since November. Son Heung-Min’s through ball met the Swiss striker, who’s first attempt hit the right leg of Hitz, but was then bundled in to the bottom left hand corner in the 8th minute.
Hitz, who arguably should have done better with the first, almost gifted the away side another first half goal. On the edge of his box, he gave the ball away to South Korea international Son. The Augsburg stopper’s blushes were spared as the Son’s effort was cleared by Ragnar Klavan’s diving header.
The Bavarians certainly upped the ante in the second 45. Half time substitute, Caiuby got on the end of Daniel Baier’s pass, and an excellent touch took it away from Ömer Toprak, before a tidy finish 15 minutes into the second half.
By now Augsburg had the upper hand. A siege on Bernd Leno’s goalmouth went unrewarded as the home side looked to go in front for the first time in the afternoon. Leno prevailed in a one on one with Raul Bobadilla, but had Toprak to thank for clearing off the line from Tobias Werner’s rebound, before the attack instigator, Bobadilla, put the second rebound over the bar.
Despite Augsburg’s efforts, Leverkusen regained the lead in the 84th minute. A Stefan Reinartz effort took a slight deflection off Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker, and nestled in the bottom left hand corner.
The thrilling clash still had a bit of drama left in it. Markus Weinzierl will be thanking his lucky stars as that he selected the returning goalkeeper Marwin Hitz, but not for the reasons he probably would have thought prior to the extraordinary events that unravelled in stoppage time.
The Augsburg goalkeeper joined the packed Leverkusen penalty area for a 94th minute corner. The initial corner was cleared, but Shawn Parker’s second cross was knocked on by Callsen-Bracker and the stretching Hitz poked in from close range. Cue pandemonium inside the Impuls Arena, and a conversation piece in many a Bavarian Bierhaus.
Weinzierl’s men very nearly heaped more misery on Leverkusen, Halil Aintlop’s late effort striking the post just before the final whistle.
Many have doubted the longevity of Augsburg’s Champions League pursuit, but their ‘never say die’ mentality was never better demonstrated than on Saturday in the dying moments of the game. It seems like they will hang onto a European spot by hook or by crook. Augsburg travel to the capital on Saturday to face strugglers, Hertha Berlin.
Leverkusen on the other hand will be concerned that once again defensive carelessness led to a stoppage time goal against them. Their stuttering form has hindered them since the restart of the Bundesliga, although it has not been enough to build that much of a gap between them and the top four. However they must amend their defensive frailties, starting with Freiburg at the BayArena on Match Day 23.
Latest posts by Stephen Linsley (see all)
- Bayer 04 Leverkusen: On the defensive - April 2, 2015
- Bayer 04 Leverkusen Rolls On - March 9, 2015
- He’s a Hitz- Augusburg keeper stuns Leverkusen with late goal - February 24, 2015