Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen played out an entertaining fixture as the hosts took all three points at Borussia-Park.
Leverkusen retained much of the control in the first half and their high pressing game meant that Gladbach’s back three were unable to play out effectively, which also neutralised the influence of Christoph Kramer and Tobias Strobl in the midfield.
As such, the visitors looked relatively at ease for the opening 20 minutes. However, Gladbach slowly grew into the game and started to have chances. Bernd Leno was kept very busy, denying Andre Hahn twice with his face, but Leverkusen held on until the dying minutes of the period.
In the second minute of additional time at the end of the first half, Jonathan Tah’s backward header flew into the path of the onrushing Hahn. Through one-on-one yet again, he was not to be denied for a third time and slotted past Leno to give Gladbach the lead going into the break.
Leverkusen had more chances at the start of the second half, but they were wasteful. Karim Bellarabi twice fired straight at Yann Sommer from good positions, while they posed no aerial threat despite peppering the Gladbach box with corners.
Gladbach’s chances were even more sporadic and less clear cut, with Raffael looking a major threat at set pieces. Aside from that, however, the second half looked much more cagey than the first as Gladbach seemed intent on shutting up shop.
The game threatened to boil over just after the 70th minute with a flurry of bookings and a bad-tempered encounter between Bellarabi and Lars Stindl, but thankfully Leverkusen began to concentrate on finding an equaliser.
And they found exactly that with ten minutes to play – Bellarabi kept the ball in and it was left to Finnish substitute Joel Pohjanpalo to nod home into an empty net to make it 1-1.
But the stalemate lasted just five minutes as Leverkusen switched off, allowing Gladbach captain Stindl to run on to substitute Thorgan Hazard’s weighted ball to slot past Leno.
In what was probably the game of the weekend, both sides delivered an entertaining and intriguing contest and, in truth, it could have gone either way. Leverkusen, however, will rue their missed chances at the start of the second half as Gladbach take the spoils on Matchday one.