DFB-Pokal semi-final previews: Saarbrucken-Leverkusen and Bayern-Frankfurt

Coronavirus: Germany's DFB-Pokal final postponed - AS.com

Bayer Leverkusen and Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich will be expected to progress into this summer’s DFB-Pokal Final, as the pair are heavy favourites in their respective cup ties against fourth-tier Saarbrucken and a depleted Eintracht Frankfurt side this midweek. Continue reading

VfL Wolfsburg 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen: Draxler snatches three points in controversial affair

VfL Wolfsburg 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen: Draxler snatches three points in controversial affair

Julian Draxler’s effort helped Dieter Hecking’s side leapfrog Schalke into third place – with a narrow, arguably undeserved victory over a luckless Leverkusen team.

Julian Draxler, fresh off the substitutes’ bench, scored with a close-range effort to help give Dieter Hecking‘s men maximum points from a match they probably should have lost in truth, at the Volkswagen Arena.

In a cagey affair packed with half-chances for both sides, it should have been Bayer Leverkusen in-front, but they struggled to convert their chances and fell behind shortly after the half-hour mark, courtesy of an extraordinary moment of controversy.

Wolves steal undeserved and controversial lead

Nicklas Bendtner slammed home from a few yards out, but his reaction after hitting the back of the net spoke volumes about the goal itself. Not only was it against the run of play, but Vieirinha, credited with the assist, was in an offside position when the ball was played into his path.

The officials waved play on despite replays showing André Schurrle passed the ball into his feet – as opposed to the Leverkusen defender – and after he drilled the ball low into the former Arsenal man’s path, he simply couldn’t miss.

Chicharito draws visitors level before interval

The visitors got their deserved goal soon afterwards, with Mexican forward Javier Hernandez peeling away from Naldo within a flash in the area before expertly heading his effort past Diego Benaglio to level proceedings from a teasing ball by Christoph Kramer. His sixth goal in four matches, Chicharito has certainly been in amongst the goals recently since his summer switch from Louis van Gaal‘s Manchester United.

The final few minutes of the first-half were action-packed and end-to-end, and Benaglio made a great stop to deny Admir Mehmedi‘s one-on-one opportunity with just seconds until the interval.

As the second 45 began, neither side made any alterations. Papadopoulous made an important block to deny VfL Wolfsburg from taking the lead once more, and you could tell what it meant to the young Greek defender – as he celebrated passionately to the supporters behind the goal.

Schurrle squandered a golden opportunity to put the game to bed, curling his effort narrowly over the crossbar, whilst the hosts had two penalty decisions correctly turned down by the referee Manuel Graefe, who had a tough test having to keep up with the action at times.

Draxler on hand to seal maximum points

With little over fifteen minutes to play, and the scores still somehow level, Hecking made a double alteration. Draxler and Dutch forward Bas Dost were introduced into the fray, in place of Maximilian Arnold and the ineffective Nicklas Bendtner – who, apart from his goal, was quite frustrating in-front of goal and should have done more, in truth.

Just minutes afterwards, Wolfsburg celebrated as Draxler made it two-one, and Leverkusen were staring defeat in the face again. Wendell, Karim Bellarabi and Kevin Kampl tried their luck – to no avail, as Benaglio was alert to their efforts and ensured he didn’t concede more.

The goal itself, is certainly going to be one that Bernd Leno will not want to see again. Ricardo Rodriguez took a pop from range, and although it bounced in-front of him, the goalkeeper parried it into a dangerous position yards away from his near post. Dost was on hand to flick the ball back goalwards, and Draxler was first to the ball, tapping home from close-range.

Should Wolfsburg had won? Probably not. Did they? Yes. Fine margins in football, triumph once more.

Both sides have respective Champions League fixtures in midweek – Wolfsburg travel to the Netherlands for a tough test against PSV Eindhoven; who they beat in matchday three of the group stages. Roma entertain Leverkusen on Wednesday meanwhile, with Roger Schmidt‘s side sitting second in their group, behind the competition’s holders Barcelona.


FC Schalke 04 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen: Bellarabi effort gives visitors vital points

FC Schalke 04 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen: Bellarabi effort gives visitors vital points

A well-taken solo effort from German winger Kerim Bellarabi, with ten minutes to go until the half-time whistle at the Veltins Arena, sealed all three points for the visitors in their race for the highly-coveted UEFA Champions League spots. It was a rather cagey affair as the Royal Blues were not able to finish their chances, and Leverkusen certainly frustrated them throughout, holding firm with an essential clean sheet to ensure they took all three points; leapfrogging Borussia Monchengladbach who travel to defending champions Bayern Munich in tomorrow afternoon’s fixture in Munich.

Leverkusen defender Hilbert got the first yellow card of the match, for a tactical foul on young Max Meyer who was breaking with speed on the counter attack in the early going. He will miss their next matchday fixture, up against Hamburg after the international break.

Respective goalkeepers Bernd Leno (LEV) and Timon Wellenreuther (SCH) were called into action to deny goal-scoring efforts from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Bellarabi respectively, before the latter made the hosts pay in the 35th minute with a great strike beyond 19-year-old Wellenreuther. Simon Rolfes sent him on a run down the flank near the byline with a teasing ball, he weaved past two markers before cutting through into the box and smacking his effort in off the roof of the crossbar, to open the scoring in some style.

Schalke were unable to respond quickly enough before the break, and young promising striker Leroy Sané was replaced by Kevin-Prince Boateng just on the stroke of the half-time whistle in a tactical change before centre-back Kyriakos Papadopoulos also went into the referee’s book for a challenge on Huntelaar.

As the second-half began, Leverkusen made a double substitution; Calhanoglu and Toprak coming on in place of Son and Papadopoulous respectively. Austrian full-back Christian Fuchs had a superbly struck effort inches wide of Leno’s post, as Schalke upped the pressure on the visitors as the game went on.

Höger and Neustädter were both booked within quick succession before Leon Goretska was swiftly brought onto the field of play by the former Chelsea boss in an attacking-minded substitution.

A penalty decision was waved away by referee Peter Gagelmann as Bellarabi attempted to dribble his way past Ayhan in the area, before going to ground in the box. Just before that, winger Jefferson Farfan replaced Meyer for the closing stages, making his first senior team appearance for eight months following a serious injury lay-off, whilst Lars Bender came on in place of an ineffective Stefan Kiessling for Leverkusen.

In the last ten minutes of the match, Schalke continued to pile on the pressure, but eventually it came to no avail in the end. Boateng’s fierce goal-scoring effort was blocked by a Leverkusen wall of defenders in the box, with many Schalke players shouting at the referee for a penalty, as they felt it was handled in the air. Nothing was given, which just epitomises how their evening was overall. Frustrating, and in the end, Leverkusen stayed strong for a big victory.

As a result of the game, Schalke remain in 5th place – just below the Champions League qualification places but in contention for Europa League if they stay where they are for the rest of the season. 6th placed Augsburg lost away at Freiburg in the day’s earlier kick-off, meaning Roberto di Matteo‘s men were unable to capitalise and close the gap on the rivals ahead of them.