Bayer Leverkusen delivered a blistering display to beat RB Leipzig to move back into the Bundesliga’s top four.
Leipzig took the lead through Marcel Sabitzer, but Leverkusen were deservingly level at the break after Kai Havertz finished off a shattering counter attack.
The second half display stunned the hots though, with Julian Brandt, Panagiotis Retsos and Kevin Volland as they took advantage of an off-kilter Leipzig side.
Havertz stuns Leipzig just before the breka
This was a chance for both teams to move back into the top four, with Leipzig needing just a draw unset Eintracht Frankfurt in fourth place. Sat in between two UEFA Europa League games against Olympique Marseille though, they made six changes to their team, including returns for Sabitzer and Yussuf Poulsen. Leverkusen made just two changes from their goalless draw last weekend with FC Augsburg – Lars Bender and Havertz came in for Retsos and Dominik Kohr.
Both sets of players were struggling to find their feet in the game early on, but that made for an open contest. The first chance of the match saw Jonathan Tah head across a Leon Bailey free-kick, with Julian Baumgartlinger heading on goal but denied by Peter Gulácsi’s out-stretched hand. Naby Keïta meanwhile came close for Leipzig, beating Baumgartlinger in a mazy run forward, but he curled his shot just wide.
Not long after that, his team went ahead on the counter. Sabitzer and Poulsen exchanged balls, with the latter easily beating Sven Bender to a header (the Leverkusen defender would soon go off injured, to be replaced by Retsos), and Sabitzer was then able to squeeze the ball between Bernd Leno and the post, the Germany international goalkeeper perhaps thinking he could have done better.
Despite a decent chance for Werner soon after, Leverkusen went about finding a way back into the game, with the best opportunity of a promising spell falling to Brandt, who struck at Gulácsi with Dayot Upamecano quickly chasing him down. The hosts were resurgent after the half-hour however, with Emil Forsberg, Kevin Kampl, Sabitzer and Keïta all going wide.
But they were pegged back just before the break from their own corner. Leverkusen were down to ten men with Charles Aránguiz off the field getting treatment, but they gave Leipzig a taste of their own medicine with a devastating counter. Bailey charged down Leverkusen’s right, finding Havertz in the ball. He volleyed into the ground, with the shot having enough weight to beat Gulácsi.
Leverkusen storm out of sight
The second half picked up where the first half left. After a clash between Forsberg and Aránguiz, which resulted in nothing more than a goal kick despite Forsberg believe he had had an elbow from the Chilean, Leno launched the ball up-field. Headed on by Havertz, Volland then flicked it onto Brandt, who proceeded to beat both Bernardo and, more importantly, Gulácsi.
It would get even better for Der Werkself soon after. Leverkusen had a free-kick on the left, which was whipped in by Brandt. Upamecano got his head to it but could only direct it sideways, with the ball falling at the feet of Retsos who was able to pick his spot, with Kampl failing to close him down. It was the Greek youngster’s first Leverkusen goal.
They suffered another injury blow when Wendell succumbed to a nasty-looking knee injury, yet they were still able to go on the charge once more and make Leipzig’s evening a whole lot worse. Aránguiz pounced on a mistake by Upamecano, the 19-year-old learning some valuable lessons here. Brandt then crossed the ball to find Volland, who hit it first time with his left foot for his first goal since scoring against Bayern Munich in early January.
Leipzig really had little response to what had happened, although they did at least try to add some credibility to the score. Leno made two brave saves to deny by Keïta, who was precautionary taken off after colliding with the keeper, and somehow got enough on a close-range Stefan Ilsanker to prevent the ball over going the line.
Leverkusen had two chances to make it five, although Gulácsi did well to deny both Benjamin Henrichs and Aránguiz. It would only have been the cherry on top for Leverkusen after a stunning display, which will give them plenty of confidence ahead of games against two more top four rivals in Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund in the two coming weekends.