Matthew Marshall, BayArena – Hoffenheim produced a late rally to earn a 2-2 draw against Bayer Leverkusen. Patrik Schick continued his fine form to hand the Werkself a 2-0 lead, but they failed to close it out and capitulated in the closing stages.
Angelo Stiller scored from an unlikely angle to reduce the deficit in the 80th minute. Two more substitutes combined for the equaliser, Georginio Rutter creating a chance for Munas Dabbur who executed a fine finish to earn Hoffenheim a valuable point in the fight for the top four.
Leverkusen edge first half
Bayer Leverkusen began the brightest at the BayArena. Patrik Schick’s heavy touch allowed Oliver Baumann to clear the danger before Florian Wirtz scored from an offside position.
Schick saw his shot deflected wide before the Werkself went close to taking the lead. Jonathan Tah’s header fell kindly for Piero Hincapié, his shot cannoning back off the post.
Chris Richards went close for Hoffenheim in the 35th minute as he headed David Raum’s corner against the bar.
Raum and Andrej Kramaric were starting to combine and create opportunities for the visitors. The pair made a chance for Sebastian Rudy who saw his shot saved by Lukás Hrádecky.
The pressure wouldn’t last as Bayer Leverkusen regained control and took the lead in the 37th minute. Odilon Kossounou started the move, Florian Wirtz releasing Moussa Diaby who picked out Patrik Schick, the in-form striker beating Baumann from close range.
The Werkself went close to doubling their advantage before the break. Richards deflected Schick’s shot wide, from the resulting corner Baumann made two rapid fire saves to deny Schick and Wirtz, the second stop top class.
Sebastian Hoeneß made two changes at the break with Kevin Akpoguma and Sebastian Rudy making way for Pavel Kaderábek and Angelo Stiller.
Hoffenheim immediately showed more threat, especially down the right wing with Kaderábek heavily involved. Kramaric volleyed over the bar before latching onto Stiller’s pass and forcing a save from Hrádecky.
Bayer Leverkusen spurned a great opportunity to go 3-0 ahead from a classic counter attack. Schick raced clear but failed to find Diaby free on the edge of the 18-yard box.
The game started opening up with chances at both ends. Kaderábek’s cross provided Christoph Baumgartner with a chance that went way over the bar.
Karim Bellarabi’s low shot was saved and Wirtz fired into the side netting after being released by Kerem Demirbay.
Schick can’t stop scoring
Patrik Schick came into the game having scored six goals in his previous two games. He scored again in the 63rd minute, meeting Hincapié’s cross with a precision header that arrowed into the top corner.
Gerardo Seoane immediately introduced Charles Aránguiz and Amine Adli for Kerem Demirbay and Karim Bellarabi.
Kramaric fired a warning shot as he headed Raum’s cross off the bar. Hoeneß made two more changes with Georginio Rutter and Munas Dabbur replacing Christoph Baumgartner and Ilhas Bebou.
The Werkself had two more opportunities to sail out of sight, Wirtz heading over the bar from close range and Diaby’s fierce shot forcing a fine save from Baumann.
The comeback is on
Hoffenheim were not going to lie down and pulled a goal back in the 80th minute.
Kevin Vogt’s through ball to Angelo Stiller seemed harmless, but the substitute had other ideas, his cross/shot deflecting off Hrádecky and both posts before nestling in the net.
Rutter was determined to get involved with a deflected effort forcing a save from Hrádecky.
Seoane made two more changes in an attempt to regain control, Panagiotis Retsos and Robert Andrich introduced for Odilon Kossounou and Florian Wirtz.
The tide had turned too far however, and it was Rutter who instigated the equaliser in the 83rd minute. The 19-year-old showed some fancy footwork to beat Edmond Tapsoba, his cross taking a touch into the path of Munas Dabbur who manufactured a backheeled finish into the far corner.
Dabbur almost turned villain after he was booked for a lazy handball, but Aranguiz’s free kick narrowly evaded Schick and the far post.
Diaby was shown a second yellow card in added time after a cheap shot on Florian Grillitsch. The Werkself let a 2-0 lead slip for a second successive match.
Hoffenheim top four threat
Hoffenheim were flying under the radar before four straight wins catapulted them into fourth spot.
Sebastian Hoeneß has a deep and talented squad that are hungry and set for a return to Europe. He switched to a back three on Match Day 8 with Florian Grillitsch spending a lot of time in central defence.
There is more improvement to come with Pavel Kaderábek set to return to the starting side, Angelo Stiller pressing for a start and Dennis Geiger to return from injury.
Georginio Rutter produced some outstanding skill as he registered three goals and an assist against Greuther Fürth and Eintracht Frankfurt. His impact off the bench alongside Stiller and Munas Dabbur played a big part in the turnaround at the BayArena.
Andrej Kramaric suffered a head injury on international duty and has been making his way back to full health. I don’t think it will be long before the Croatian fires up and takes Hoffenheim to a higher level.
Bayer Leverkusen wasting Schick’s goals
Bayer Leverkusen’s 7-1 thrashing of Greuther Fürth capped off four straight wins including 3-2 against Celtic and 3-1 in Leipzig.
Patrik Schick bagged four goals against Fürth and was rested in Hungary, Seoane’s second string side failing to take their chances in a 1-0 defeat at Ferencvaros.
The Werkself raced out of the blocks to lead 2-0 in Frankfurt courtesy of Schick. The lead lasted eight minutes in an unlikely 5-2 defeat, too many players failing to get up for the fight.
Lightning does strike twice. Leverkusen took a 2-0 lead against Hoffenheim thanks to two goals to Schick, and once again they couldn’t close it out.
Leading 2-0 at home in the 80th minute and ending 2-2 feels like a loss. There was the added opportunity for Leverkusen to move four points clear of Hoffenheim and stay four points behind Borussia Dortmund.
Schick has proved to be an inspired signing. After scoring five goals for Czech Republic at Euro 2020, the 25-year old has now scored 16 Bundesliga goals in 13 appearances, three more goals than Erling Haaland and two behind Robert Lewandowski.
Race for top four is on
Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim are well placed to finish 2021 strong and solidify their spots in the top four. The Werkself travel to Freiburg in front of 750 fans while Hoffenheim host a Mönchengladbach side lacking confidence.
Leipzig are playing catch up but remain the logical choice to threaten their positions. Domenico Tedesco returns to Germany a more experienced manager with a far superior squad than the one he left at Schalke.
Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach are on the slide. The Wolves have lost six straight and face Bayern Munich on Friday. The Foals have lost four straight, conceded 17 goals in the process, and could easily lose their next three games.
Freiburg, Mainz, Union Berlin and Köln are unlikely to maintain a top four challenge. Can Eintracht Frankfurt stay in the hunt and go deep in the Europa League?