Schalke 04 and Bayer Leverkusen shared the points in an entertaining Friday night Bundesliga encounter.
Leon Goretzka’s superb free-kick gave Schalke the lead, before Leon Bailey levelled for Leverkusen after the break. Lucas Alario had a potential winner ruled out for offside.
A lengthy delay as the referee consulted the VAR over a couple of incidents perhaps contributed to a low-key finish, but Leverkusen will be happy with a first point won away this season.
Embed from Getty Images
Goretzka free-kick the difference
Both of these sides have been trying to bounce back from poor seasons, by their standards, last year although points haven’t been easy to come by. Schalke had lost their last two, against Bayern Munich and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim whilst Leverkusen had only recorded two wins, including on Sunday against Hamburger SV. Both made several changes to their sides here – Goretzka, Bastian Oczipka and, for the first time in almost a year, Breel Embolo came into the starting eleven for Schalke; Panagiotis Restos, Lars Bender, Karim Bellarabi and Julian Bradnt started for Leverkusen.
With the Veltins-Arena roof open and rain pouring down as a result, neither side could gain much of an advantage in the opening minutes, although Leverkusen were playing the more fluent football. A rare early Schalke shot was put over by young American Weston McKennie.
Having sustained plenty of pressure from der Werkself, Schalke were able to push forward more after the first 20 minutes. Oczipka was not far off with a shot he put just wide, whilst Gortetzka headed over a free-kick from the full-back. A later free-kick then had several Schalke players debating over who to take it. Goretzka got the vote, curled it through a gap in the wall created by Bellarabi, and beat Bernd Leno to put die Königsblauen ahead.
A flurry of chances then came and went for them. Moments after the restart, Yevhen Konoplyanka had a strike put wide by Leno, before Naldo heading the resulting corner into the ground, with the bounce on the wet surface taking it over. Goretzka then got on the end of an Oczipka cross, but put it wide.
Leverkusen did have a couple of further opportunities just before the break. Kevin Volland made Ralf Fährmann parry his free-kick, with Sven Bender caught offside going for the rebound. Brandt then connected with a Bellarabi cross, but against the Schalke keeper was equal to it.
Embed from Getty Images
Bailey inspires Leverkusen to a point
Heiko Herrlich brought on Bailey and Kai Havertz at the break, with the former proving an inspired introduction, having been surprisingly left out in the first place. He wasn’t involved in the first good move of the half from Leverkusen, with Wendell finding Alario, whose shot was saved by Fährmann. Schalke could have then doubled their lead when Oczipka’s free-kick came off Naldo into his path, but from close range he fired over.
Then came Bailey’s chance to shine. Lars Bender, who had only just returned to the pitch after having a head wound seen to, played it to him on the right in a quick Leverkusen attack. The winger cut in and aimed for goal. It took a big deflection off Matija Nastastic, leaving Fährmann flummoxed and Leverkusen were back level.
Leverkusen then thought they had turned the game around. Brandt beat Thilo Kehrer on the left side, although his initial cross failed to find Volland. Bailey got on the ball though, having his shot saved by Fährmann, before Alario, who had had a quiet night after two goals on debut against Hamburg, got on the rebound and netted the ball – only for his celebrations to cut short by the realisation he had been given offside.
Chaos then broke out at the other end. First there were appeals for a penalty as Jonathan Tah wrestled with Gudio Burgstaller in the box, before there was a clash between Oczipka and Havertz out wide. Referee Guido Winkmann called in the video assistant, seemingly over the possible penalty, and then when to have a look at something himself on the side-lines. Eventually, a yellow card was shown to Oczipka, having kicked out at a floored Havertz.
After that the match took a scrappy turn for its concluding stages, as both sides tried to scramble a winner. Burgstaller saw a strike put over the bar by Leno, who then saved Naldo’s header from the following corner. Alario had a great chance for Leverkusen, heading over the bar from Brandt’s cross, whilst a Wendell shot was pushed away from goal by Fährmann. Despite six minutes being added on after the VAR delay, neither side were able to settle the game in their favour.