After facing elimination from the Europa League midweek against Villarreal, it was Leverkusen’s time to prove their ability in the Bundesliga on Sunday as they travelled to Stuttgart. Roger Schmidt’s team arrived on the back of a win at Hamburg last time out in the league, whereas Stuttgart returned home after a thrilling 3-3 draw at Ingolstadt. Leverkusen came away with the three points after goals from Bellarabi and Brandt either side of half-time.
Leverkusen lined up in their familiar 4-4-2 formation, in comparison the Stuttgart’s favoured 4-1-4-1. Jurgen Kramny made just one change to his side that drew in Ingolstadt, introducing Klein for Großkreutz. Schmidt was forced to trade Calhanoglu for Kießling in attack, while the Turk deals with controversy surrounding a possible breach of contract with Trabzonspor. Yurchenko came in for Frey, and Ramalho for Papadopoulos following the devastating news of his serious calf injury against Villarreal, ending his season.
Feisty first half
A feisty encounter between the two Bundesliga clubs in the first half, the first clear chance falling to Chicharito, whose header fell just wide of the top left corner to Tyton’s post, after a brilliantly executed cross from Kramer. Seconds after, Bellarabi’s ambitious shot from just outside of the box was comfortably saved.
The goal came minutes after for Leverkusen, who unleashed a venomous break on the Stuttgart defence, cutting through their midfield with a neat exchange of passes, which eventually found a threaded pass through to Brandt from a perfectly weighted pass from Bellarabi.
An agonisingly close chance to make it 2-0 in the first half fell to Kießling in the 30th minute of the game. Chicharito heading the ball back across goal to Kießling whose attempt was saved expertly by Tyton from close range.
Just before half time, it was Stuttgart’s time to attack, Werner’s solo effort saved brilliantly by Leno who got down to meet the shot after some sublime footwork by Werner, dancing through the Leverkusen defence on the edge of the box.
Leverkusen double lead after break
Just 4 minutes after the restart, Leverkusen doubled their lead in Stuttgart. Brandt and Bellarabi combining again, this time it was Brandt’s turn to assist the German. Bellarabi’s powerfully controlled shot hit across Tyton’s goal and fired into the bottom left to put Leverkusen 2-0 up.
Brandt had a perfect chance to add to his first-half goal after he was picked out by Yurchenko, and found himself 1 on 1 with the keeper, his shot eventually clipping the far post to Stuttgart’s relief. Leverkusen came close again in the 64th minute of play, with 3 shots on goal, but no goal to show for their efforts. The attack stemmed from Bellarabi regaining possession just outside of the Stuttgart box, opening up some space for himself with some neat footwork completely tricking the defenders. His quick shot was blocked just inside the box, allowing Yurchenko to snatch up the rebound in which he hit the crossbar from outside of the box, Stuttgart look hopelessly as the ball rebounded for a third time to the feet of Chicharito, whose shot is saved by Tyton for a Leverkusen corner.
Difficult day for Stuttgart
Although providing the game with an almost ‘end-to-end’ feel, Stuttgart never found their clinical ability, despite having 14 shots in comparison to Leverkusen’s 15, and controlling the possession of the game. A trio of chances for Alexandru Maxim fell in the closing stages of the game. The first being a volley from 6 yards out, hit wide from Leno’s rebounded save. 2 minutes later after a perfectly executed exchange of passes, the Romanian found himself the space to shoot inside the box, saved comfortably by Leno. Less than a minute after, he produced an acrobatic volleyed effort, and once more Leno collected, a fantastic show of athleticism but the finish was lacking.
The game ended 2-0 in Stuttgart, the three points for Leverkusen sealed with goals from Bellarabi and Brandt. Leverkusen sit at 6th in the table, Stuttgart down at 11th before the international break. Next up for Leverkusen are 8th place Wolfsburg at home, whereas Stuttgart face a trip to Darmstadt.