Leverkusen look to bounce back
Coming off of the back of a 5-1 weekend loss, the visitors started brightly, winning a succession of corners in the opening minutes although unable to capitalise before being pushed to the back foot at the hosts looked to strike early.
A soft foul on Svenja Huth carved out a chance for the home side, Elise Kellond-Knight’s whipped delivery to the back post from the edge of the area enough to have Anna Klink off of her line as she attempted to punch clear, Tabea Kemme the only thing to land in the back of the net as Leverkusen averted the danger.
Despite their respective win over Bayern Munich on Sunday, Potsdam struggled for rhythm throughout in Bavaria, the same problem plaguing them at home. The hosts dominated the ball but were unable to find their teammates, often picking the wrong pass or just failing to execute a simple pass.
Conversely the visitors, who could have been excused to coming into the game with their heads held low after their weekend loss, seemed bright on the ball, linking play well as they advanced.
Ramona Petzelberger’s low cross from the left side of the box at a free kick looked to cause all sorts of problems, Turid Knaak’s volley ricocheting in the box, the home defence uncertain but lively enough to clear the ball and set Huth away on the counter.
The move stilted as the visitors half-cleared to Kellond-Knight 25 yards out, her stinger forcing a second-time save out of Klink. A nice passage of play had the back of the net rippling as Sarah Zadrazil found Eseosa Aigbogun with a delicate through-ball, her cross volleyed home by an offside Felicitas Rauch. A disallowed goal but a reminder of what the league leaders can do when they find their groove, Leverkusen determined not to give the hosts an inch in the final third.
With the hosts growing more and more into the game Leverkusen found themselves pinned further back, unable to get out a far or frequently as they would have liked but persisted in keeping them out and providing suitable cover for Klink.
The visiting side finally unlocked seven minutes before the break, once again coming down the right through Aigbogun, the Swiss attacker found Zadrazil with a curt ball before the midfielder laid the ball off for Rauch to fire across goal and place in the far corner. The goal had been building but it was of great credit to Leverkusen that the breakthrough had been so delayed, the backline a completely different entity from the one on show on Sunday.
Both teams came out after the break with a renewed sense of self-belief, confident of a strong second-half, the hosts beginning to play a dangerously high-line as Lisa Schmitz adopted the role of a sweeper. Inviting nothing but pressure from Bayer 04, Lisa Schwab more than happy to ride the offside trap and pounce on anything that came her way.
Again, Potsdam were creating half-chances but lacked a real punch in the box, Rauch and substitute Anna Gasper the best outlets to surge into the box and get a head or foot on a cross, but as the game passed the hour mark Klink remained relatively untroubled. Schmitz the busier keeper, even if it was just to charge off of her line and clear the ball.
Unfortunately, both began to sag after the hour, travel and a second game in a short space of time taking its’ toll as passes became more careless, neither side really able to take the fight to the other, the middle of the pitch being worn hard as both attempted to mount half-attack after half-attack. Although bitty whilst on the offensive both sides did well to drop number back when on the defensive, allowing even less in attack for their opponents.
Schwab began to be greeted by more red shirts in the final third, Leverkusen still very much able to return home with a point if they could find the right series of passes to find a way through the home defence, but time was rapidly running out. Marina Hegering’s hopeful 40-yard punt forward drifted wide of Schmitz’ upright, ideas thin on the ground.
With the crowd still in full voice the game began to drag into the last five minutes, the style long since having left the game, simple three-yard passes failing to reach their intended target. Leverkusen at least more aware of themselves and measured in their build-up still able to string more passes together than their hosts but unable to slot the ball around the stubborn defence, Potsdam bafflingly frantic in their approach.
With nothing but stoppage time left, Leverkusen found one last rally, their efforts earning a free kick 40 yards out, Petzelberger’s deep delivery just about comfortable for Schmitz to claim through a sea of bodies, the keeper colliding with Rachel Rinast.
Another long-range free kick followed deep into stoppage time, another half-chance for the visitors who arguably deserved something but no one in red could be found in the box, Annike Krahn claimed the last touch of the game as her deep ball back in flew over the bar.
Improvements and stagnation
After being humbled at home to Essen just three days ago, Leverkusen showed real drive to come out and bring the fight to the table-topers in their own back garden.
A team that struggled so deeply in defence on the weekend replaced with a calm and focused group, unwilling to find themselves so exposed at the back, they stayed tight and worked as a team to minimise the threat from the hosts whilst still carrying an air of danger on the counter. Although unable to garner any points on the road, Thomas Obliers should be happy with the performance shown by his team.
Conversely Matthias Rudolph will have plenty to think about before Potsdam’s last game before the winter break – a home tie against an improving MSV Duisburg. The match matched the affair in Munich in many ways, Turbine the better team for most of the game but left looking suspect in the latter stages, questions being asked across the pitch, the technical aspects of the game far from the level they should have been at.
Whilst Johanna Elsig was the stand-out performer last week it was Rauch who did well to drive her team forward today, Huth, Kemme and Zadrazil playing important roles throughout but unable to hit the highs they’re well capable of. Stifled for fluidity, passes over-hit, under-hit and confusingly misplaced a continued theme throughout, the break seemingly not coming soon enough for a team certain to be top over the holidays.