There was a party atmosphere at the BayArena. In the final home game of the season against Schalke it was all about crucial points in the race to qualify for Europe. At the same time, the optimistic supporters could enjoy pleasant memories when Bayer 04 legends like Bum-kun Cha, Zé Roberto, Juan, Paulo Sergio, Dimitar Berbatov, Ulf Kirsten and Bernd Schneider were introduced to the crowd. The incredible atmosphere at the stadium was also in part due to the wonderful fan choreography on the theme of '40 years Bundesliga under the Bayer Cross'. Farewells were made to the former sporting director Jonas Boldt, goalkeeper Torsten Kirschbaum and striker Isaac Kiese Thelin shortly before the kick-off as they will be leaving at the end of the season. Head coach Peter Bosz retained the same team as in the 6-1 win against Frankfurt - both in the starting eleven and on the bench.
The Werkself played in a red, special shirt commemorating the Bundesliga promotion season of 1978/79 and, as expected, the hosts dominated proceedings from the start. Schalke, who sat back, did well to keep the Werkself away from their own penalty area in the first ten minutes. That soon changed: First, Charles Aránguiz hammered the ball against the underside of the bar and the rebound was volleyed by Julian Brandt onto the post from 16 yards out (12'). Shortly after that, Kai Havertz shot from the edge of the box but the Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nübel was not troubled by the shot to the centre of the goal (14'). Aránguiz (19') and Lucas Alario (21') also had chances but they went wide of the target. The Werkself were working hard but patiently on taking the lead.
Havertz slipped the ball into the path of Brandt who volleyed but he slipped slightly as he did so and the ball went just wide on 22 minutes. Schalke then made a rare foray upfield: Weston McKennie hit a shot high over the bar following a Bastian Oczipka free kick (24'). The long deserved lead for the hosts came on the half-hour mark: Once again it was Kai Havertz who opened the scoring - with a fine volley after Schalke failed to clear a cross from Brandt (31'). It was the 16th goal of the season for the Germany international who has now made it 1-0 for his side eight times. For Brandt it was his 16th assist in the current campaign.
Out of the blue, the visitors had the chance to shoot but Hradecky dived at the right moment to the near post and he was able to turn the shot from Nassim Boujellab round the post for a corner (37'). Half-time then came and Bayer 04 went into the break with a very deserved lead.
After the restart – Mitchell Weiser replaced Lars Bender at full-back due to slight muscle problems – the Werkself were now playing towards 'their' North Stand. And then they suffered a setback: Burgstaller broke through the centre and beat Hradecky (47'). The VAR assistant in Cologne looked at the incident and decided: no offside, 1-1. VAR was used again shortly after that when Kevin Volland used his arm against McKennie and a penalty was awarded for Schalke but Hradecky sensationally saved the spot kick from the otherwise so reliable Caligiuri (52').
The visitors were now in the game. Bayer 04 regrouped, fought their way back into the match and then had a good chance through Aránguiz after some excellent work from Brandt down the left but the Chilean curled his shot wide of the upright (57'). Brandt half-volleyed the ball from a great cross from the right from Havertz over the bar on the hour mark. A cross come shot from Wendell almost caught out Nübel but the keeper was able to tip it over the bar (67').
VAR was called into action again. First, referee Deniz Aytekin awarded Schalke a penalty after a challenge involving Wendell and Jonathan Tah on Breel Embolo but the spot kick decision was changed after the intervention of the studio in Cologne (72'). The game was now on a knife edge. Bosz reacted by bringing on Paulinho for Alario (76'). When Julian Baumgartlinger bumped into Caligiuri in the box there was no whistle from the referee (77'). Volland beat three Schalke players in the Royal Blues’ penalty area but was unable to hit a shot with enough force (80'). Then the third change for the Werkself: Dominik Kohr replaced Baumgartlinger on 84 minutes.
Volland just failed to connect with a cross from Havertz (86') and then only half hit a shot with his right foot (87'). A header from Burgstaller landed on the top of the bar but the referee's assistant had flagged for offside (89'). There were five minutes of added time but Leverkusen were unable to land the required blow. The Werkself’s European fate will now be decided on the last matchday of the season on Saturday, 18 May at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. The game against Hertha kicks off at 15.30 CET.
Bayer 04: Hradecky – L. Bender (Weiser 46'), Tah, S. Bender, Wendell – Aránguiz, Baumgartlinger (Kohr 84'), Brandt – Havertz, Alario (Paulinho 76'), Volland
Schalke 04: Nübel – McKennie, Stambouli, Nastasic – Caligiuri, Mascarell, Oczipka – Boujellab, Rudy – Embolo (Matondo 80'), Burgstaller (Teuchert 90+4')
Goals: 1-0 Havertz (31'), 1-1 Burgstaller (47')
Referee: Deniz Aytekin (Oberasbach)
Booked: Baumgartlinger, Volland – Nübel
Special incidents: Hradecky saves penalty from Caligiuri (52')
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