Bayer Leverkusen have progressed to the quarter-finals of the DFB-Pokal with a narrow victory at Borussia Mönchengladbach.
The hosts seemed to have the better of the chances for much of a high-tempo game, with Bernd Leno on superb form for their guests, however somewhat against the run of play Leon Bailey struck twenty minutes from time.
Gladbach naturally tried to find an equaliser but it wouldn’t game, and Der Werkself progressed into the last-eight at the expence of their Rhineland rivals.
Full throttle first half provides no goals
Plagued by injury problems already, Gladbach had to do without Raffael here due to a calf problem, with Denis Zakaria coming in as the only change from their 3-1 Bundesliga win over Hamburger SV on Friday. Leverkusen had more options available to rotate, with five changes from their epic 4-4 draw with Hannover 96. Wendell, Julian Baumgartlinger, Dominik Kohr, Bailey and Kevin Volland all returned to the starting line-up.
This cup tie was anything but cagey from the off. Leverkusen, who were 5-1 winners here in the league in October, appeared to start the stronger. Sven Bender came inches from finding Volland in front of goal with a pass, which was cleared by Lars Stindl, before Panagiotis Retsos cross should have been headed on target by Julian Brandt, but he put it wide. The in-form Bailey, one of the stars of the season so far, also came close, seeing a shot saved by Yann Sommer.
By then the Foals had hit back, with only Bernd Leno standing between them and the opening goal. Stindl was first to be denied, with his long range effort parried by the Leverkusen goalkeeper. Thorgan Hazard then cut in from the left to take aim, with Leno getting his fingers to it, before he saved from close range from Patrick Herrmann, after he was found by Stindl.
The hosts would continue to have the better chances in the remained of the first half. Mickäel Cuisance and Herrmann combined on the left to set up Hazard before his shot was cleared by Retsos. Cuisance also struck over whilst Nico Elvedi would have been disappointed with his high header from a Herrmann cross.
Leverkusen could easily have finished the half with ten men though. Matthias Ginter and Havertz both went for a header, with the latter’s elbow straying into the face of Ginter. Whilst they was clearly no malice intended, referee Manuel Gräfe could easily have shown the youngster his second yellow card of the game, but he chose not to and there was no VAR to change his mind. Heiko Herrlich, wisely, withdrew Havertz for the second half.
Oxford mistake leads to Bailey winning goal
The hosts remained on top after the resumption. Hazard had potentially the best chance yet six minutes in, after Jonathan Tah gave the ball away. The Belgian was one-on-one with Leno, but the keeper was having one of those nights and parried his shot away. Stindl also had a shot deflect wide.
With this match being a derby, it was no surprise that things were begin to get feisty between the two sets of players, with a couple of flare-ups and hefty challenges, although nothing to force Gräfe into getting his cards out. One challenge by Baumgartlinger on Hazard looked particularly nasty, but the only punishment was a Gladbach free-kick.
Very much against the run of play in the second half, Bailey gave Der Werkself the lead in impressive fashion. Reece Oxford’s failure to adequately deal with a Leno goal-kick allowed Volland to find Bailey, who bared down on goal and fired the ball past Sommer.
There was a moment of comedy soon after the goal, when Zakaria overran the pitch and used Herrlich in the Leverkusen technical area to halt his run. Herrlich responded by theatrically falling to the ground, with Gräfe fortunately seeing the funny side. There were more legitimate causes for Leverkusen complaints soon after, when Sommer brought down Volland after spilling a Kohr shot – fortunately for the Gladback keeper though, Volland was offside.
Meanwhile Gladbach brought on Vincenzo Grifo, Raúl Bobadilla and Josip Drmic to get back into a game they had seemed in control of, with the former curling a shot wide soon after his introduction. They piled on the pressure in the closing minutes, with Jannik Vestergaard close twice form set-piece situations and Cuisance hitting the side netting. Despite then having both a corner and a free-kick in the dying seconds, they couldn’t craft an equaliser and Leverkusen hung on for just a second Pokal win in seven meetings with Gladbach.
Wednesday’s other DFB-Pokal results
Werder Bremen 3-2 SC Freiburg (1-0, Belfodil 3’; 2-0, Kainz 20’; 2-1, Petersen 28’ (P); 3-1, Bargfrede 69’; 3-2, Ravet 87’)
Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund (1-0, Boateng 12’; 2-0, Müller 40‘; 2-1, Yarmolenko 77’)
1. FC Heidenheim 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt AET (0-1, Gacinovic 95‘; 1-1, Schnatterer 96‘; 1-2, Haller 109‘)