A late goal from Andre Schürrle denied Gladbach the three points after a valiant comeback in the second half. Despite being the more persistent and adventurous side it was Leverkusen that took the early lead but spent the rest of the match trying to hold off an aggressive and motivated Gladbach. The defensive troubles that have been plaguing Leverkusen throughout the season along with questionable tactical decisions by Dutt eventually allowed Gladbach to come back and nearly steal the game but Schürrle netted his first Bundesliga goal for his new club at the end to split the points. Gladbach have now failed to beat Leverkusen at home in 22 years.
Favre made three changes to his line up after the 1-0 loss to Freiburg last week. Captain Filip Daems returned to the line up after his brief injury while Nordtveit and Hermann came in for the injured De Camargo and Marx. Reus played in the hole with Hermann filling in on the right. It was the first time Reus was played there this season but not a role unfamiliar to the versatile attacker. After his successful tactical adjustment against Wolfsburg last week, Dutt did not see the need for many changes and only replaced the sick Toprak with Schwaab and welcomed back Schürrle from suspension in place of Derdiyok. Ballack continued to occupy Rolfes’s role in central midfield with Castro and Sam the supporting wide players. Curiously enough, Schürrle was played behind Kiessling instead of out wide.
Gladbach create multitude of chances but Leverkusen take the lead
The 52,000 spectators that settled into Borussia Park for the highly anticipated derby were not disappointed as they were served a thoroughly entertaining and exciting match. A far cry from last season, Gladbach have created more clear cut goal scoring chances than most sides in the league this year but have struggled to finish them when necessary. Against Leverkusen that predicament seemed inevitable to repeat.
Leverkusen had the lion’s share of possession at the start but did not create much when momentum was on their side. That distinct lack of creativity has been a talking point this season with Leverkusen failing to replicate their efficiency in the final third from last year. Gladbach on the other hand looked dangerous on the counter with Reus very lively and eager to receive the ball. He nearly caught Leverkusen by surprise after 17 minutes with the game’s first shot but Leno was up for it. Minutes later Schürrle set up Leverkusen’s first real chance after he played Sam through but the winger’s shot was parried safely away by ter Stegen.
Leverkusen opened the scoring seconds later after Kadlec’s corner was floated into the box and met by Ballack, the ball directed to the near post where Reinartz conveniently stood to touch it in the net. The goal could have prompted more from Leverkusen but instead only invigorated Gladbach and the home side became more and more threatening as the break neared. Arango crossed the ball to Hanke on 37 minutes. The striker’s initial touch to control was sublime but the shot hit the post. Two minutes later, it was Reus’s turn again. The mercurial attacker cut in from the right, leaving all Leverkusen players in his wake, and drove a low shot from 14 meters that went just wide of the goal. Leno became the busiest player on the pitch and had to make two additional saves before the break with Reus once more and Hermann having a go.
Tempestuous second half as Gladbach mounts comeback
Leverkusen had their young goalkeeper to thank for going into the break with the lead but could he continue to hold off Gladbach single handedly in the second? After their comfortable start, Leverkusen slowly drifted out of the game and began to look vulnerable in key areas of the pitch. Already coping with a frail defense, the absence of Toprak made that even more notable. Schwaab had recently played more at right back than in the center and Ballitsch is not a natural fullback. The makeshift nature of Leverkusen’s backline was not conducive to the stability desired by Dutt. Furthermore, Leverkusen lacked a striking sense of organization in midfield with both Bender and Ballack looking overwhelmed at times. 66 of their passes were misplaced and they lacked a defensive presence from their attackers, particularly their wide players.
The above-mentioned limitations thus made it possible for Gladbach to continue their pressure when the second half resumed. It only took two minutes for Reus to threaten again after he got past Schwaab and Reinartz and one on one with Leno but again the goalkeeper was up to the challenge. It was turning into the Marco Reus show as the recently capped German international could not be contained. A last ditch tackle from Bender prevented another goal scoring chance from Reus minutes later. The pressure was being piled on from every direction and Hanke himself had two chances within two minutes, shooting wide on both occasions. The warning signs were clear and Dutt brought on Derdiyok and Rolfes in hopes of calming the game but it had the opposite effect.
The next ten minutes would be the most turbulent of the match. Reus finally broke through after mounting attack after attack. Arango, who had enjoyed a relatively unchallenged reign down the left side, switched to the right and played Reus through on goal with a great ball over the top. Reus calmly rounded Leno and breathed a sigh of relief after all the wasted opportunities. Leverkusen’s defense was again suspect, slow to react and neglecting their marking. Things went from bad to worse for Leverkusen as Castro was sent off for dissent soon after the goal. Everything looked in place now for Gladbach’s second and they got it on 72 minutes. Reinartz gave the ball away and Arango immediately spotted the run of Hermann. Leverkusen’s backline was far too high to track back in time and Hermann had all the time in the world to chip Leno.
Leverkusen looked all but beaten and it took a moment of unpredictable genius to salvage a point for the visitors. Schürrle picked up the ball on the left and cut inside to release a trademark thunderbolt from 20 meters. Ter Stegen could do little about it and another late surge from Gladbach was not enough to launch yet another comeback.
Despite getting only two points from the last three matches, Gladbach have had their best start in 24 years and this was the first time in 21 matches that they conceded more than a goal, a truly remarkable record all things considered. Even in defeat, their performances have been noteworthy and few teams play with the confidence of Gladbach. Favre has visibly improved every player on the team and while they may regret their wasted opportunities they will benefit in the long run if they maintain this level of play.
Leverkusen meanwhile underperformed again. Perhaps supporters can find comfort in the fact that they managed a point despite being outplayed but the same issues continue to plague the side and after the confidence boost against Wolfsburg last matchday things do not appear to have improved much at all. Dutt’s makeshift backline was the biggest culprit on the day but the side has yet to find the cohesion and chemistry enjoyed last season. At times players can look lethargic and disorganized and Leverkusen have relied more on good individual rather than team performances to get results.
Man of the Match
Marco Reus – Alongside Ribery, arguably the most exciting player in the league. Reus was again indomitable against Leverkusen. His relentless energy and constant willingness to run at players and score make Gladbach one of the most ferocious teams in Germany. Rightfully made a full German international, Reus has elevated his form to even greater heights than last season and filled in seamlessly in the absence of De Camargo. Running an impressive 11.62 km and boasting 8 shots on goal, Reus was simply a class apart.