Havertz strikes again to snatch vital three points for Leverkusen


A stretching toe from the Bayer forward was enough to earn Leverkusen a hard-fought 1-0 win at Freiburg.

The start to the match was almost as quiet as the stands at the Schwarzwald Stadion, with the hosts sitting much deeper than in their midweek 3-3 draw at Frankfurt.

Christian Streich made four changes from that game, with Dominique Heintz, Philipp Leinhart and Lukas Kubler coming into the defence and Nils Petersen back in the starting XI upfront, in place of Manuel Gulde, Jonathan Schmid, Amir Abrashi and Gian-Luca Waldschmidt.

Peter Bosz also rotated for the visitors with six changes, to cope with three games in six days and switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-3 formation, following the 4-1 defeat at home to Wolfsburg.

Leon Bailey, Florian Wirtz, Julian Baumgartlinger, Daley Sinkgraven, Alexsandar Dragovic and Jonathan Tah replaced Karim Bellarabi, Moussa Diaby, Wendell, Mitchell Weiser, Edmond Tapsoba and Kerem Demirbay.

But despite both bosses trying to inject fresh energy into their sides, the first half was a damp squib until Lucas Holer was fed in one-on-one with Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky in the 43rd minute.

The Freiburg forward had plenty of time and space to pick his spot but seemed to be put off by the onrushing Finnish stopper, slotting his effort just wide of the far post.

It was a huge miss in a tense contest. The only other threat at either end before the break came from the Bayer’s returning Jamaican winger Bailey, who showed some sparkles of skill but seemed to lack the confidence to let rip.

Then on 54 minutes, after an equally slow start to the second period, Leverkusen took the lead out of nowhere.

Bailey’s trickery created space for him to slip a pass through to Kai Havertz down the side of the six-yard box and the visitors’ stretching superstar somehow managed to toe the ball through the legs of keeper Alexander Schwolow at the near post.

It was a 35th Bundesliga goal for Havertz, who is still only aged 20 and attracting significant interest from the world’s biggest clubs.

Bayer briefly sprung into life and twice came close to quickly adding a second; first 17-year-old winger Wirtz flashed a drive just wide, before Baumgartlinger had a set-piece header disallowed for a foul – a prize to anyone who could spot the apparent offence.

The closest Freiburg came to an equaliser as the game petered out was when Petersen, in space on the edge of the penalty area, scuffed a placed shot that was comfortably tipped around the post by Hradecky, with two minutes of normal time remaining.

It was a fourth game without a win since the coronavirus shutdown for the hosts, who remain eighth, whilst Bayer climb – at least temporarily – move up two places to third and back into a Champions League place.


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