Bayer Leverkusen defeated RB Leipzig 4-1 at the Red Bull Arena to move into the top four. Marcel Sabitzer gave Leipzig the lead before Kai Havertz equalised on the stroke of half-time, Leverkusen scoring three unanswered goals in the second half to stun the home side who drop to sixth in the Bundesliga table.
Julian Baumgartlinger had the first chance of the game with a headed effort saved by Péter Gulácsi. Naby Keita saw his shot sail narrowly wide before Leipzig took the lead. Marcel Sabitzer played a high ball towards Yussuf Poulsen who returned the favour with a headed pass, Sabitzer smashing a volley past Bernd Leno who could only get fingertips to it.
Sven Bender was forced off injured and replaced by Panagiotis Retsos in a double blow for Heiko Herrlich’s side. Timo Werner had a good chance to double Leipzig’s advantage after making room for himself in the penalty area but his shot was blocked. Leverkusen got themselves into the game and began a spell of sustained pressure.
Julian Brandt released Kai Havertz but the 18-year-old shot wide with Kevin Volland unmarked. Havertz had a great chance to make amends moments later but his cross for Brandt was too heavy. The visitors were dominating proceedings with Brandt playing a leading role as his shot was well saved by Gulácsi.
Leipzig appeared content to soak up pressure and hit Leverkusen on the break. Keita, Sabitzer and Emil Forsberg combined before the Swede had his effort deflected wide, Sabitzer the next to have an opportunity deflected wide before Keita sliced his shot high and wide.
Leverkusen then took the lead from a Leipzig corner. Leon Bailey went on a long run from inside his own half before measuring a perfect cross to Havertz who produced a top quality volley past a helpless Gulácsi. It was a deserved equaliser with the visitors unlucky not to score until that point.
Die Werkself began the second half in a determined mood and son took the lead. Bernd Leno’s goal kick was flicked on by Havertz to Kevin Volland who released Brandt who got the goal he deserved with a nice finish. The 21-year-old was close to providing Bailey with a goal but Leverkusen wouldn’t be denied.
Brandt’s free kick from the touchline eventually fell to Retsos who produced a smart volley past Gulácsi for his first Bundesliga goal. Ralph Hasenhüttl replaced Poulsen with Bruma in an attempt to turn the tide but the game was rapidly slipping away from the hosts.
Wendell went down in an unfortunate challenge and was forced off with a knee injury with Benjamin Henrichs coming on. Lars Bender was the next casualty just minutes later and was replaced by Tin Jedvaj. The changes didn’t affect Leverkusen who scored their fourth goal to break Leipzig’s spirit.
Charles Aránguiz won the ball high in Leipzig’s half, the ball falling to Brandt who teed up Volland who produced a fine finish past Gulácsi to make it 4-1. Hasenhüttl threw in the towel and brought on Ademola Lookman for Werner before Leno made a brave save with Keita closing in.
The Liverpool bound maestro took a knock in the challenge and was replaced by Stefan Ilsanker but it mattered little. Leverkusen could have extended their lead with Henrichs’ shot saved by Gulácsi and Aránguiz having his shot blocked in injury time as Leipzig welcomed the full-time whistle.
It was a disappointing performance and result for Hasenhüttl’s side who drop to sixth in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim three points away. Leipzig take a narrow 1-0 lead to Marseille in the Europa League on Thursday evening before a trip to Werder Bremen on Sunday.
Heiko Herrlich will be delighted to move into fourth with a convincing win at a difficult venue against a strong opponent. It was the perfect response after a 2-0 loss at Köln and a 0-0 draw at home against Augsburg threatened to derail their Champions League aspirations. Leverkusen are back on track ahead of a crucial game against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
By Matthew Marshall.