Sporting director Simon Rolfes summed up the exciting 90 minutes: "Leipzig had several great chances in the first half but we were much better later on and had the upper hand. Perhaps the draw is fair overall."
The Werkself were well prepared in the top match between two teams level on points (13 points) chasing the leaders Bayern Munich (14): Leipzig came to the BayArena on the back of three convincing away wins (4-0 at Union Berlin, 3-1 at Borussia Mönchengladbach and 3-0 at Werder Bremen). Bayer 04 head coach Peter Bosz made three changes to the side that started against Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday: Wendell, Kerem Demirbay and Lucas Alario made way for Daley Sinkgraven, Nadiem Amiri and Karim Bellarabi. Lars Bender and Leon Bailey were ruled out through injury. The formation was 3-4-3 with Bellarabi playing on the left side of the attack. The hosts wore special red shirts to commemorate 20 years of match commentary for the visually impaired at the BayArena: The company name Barmenia was written in braille under the logo of the main sponsor.
It took just four minutes for the first goalscoring opportunity to arrive. A quick attack ended with Kevin Volland passing to Nadiem Amiri who almost had a free shot but Lukas Klostermann was able to close him down leaving Gulacsi with little problem holding onto the effort. At the other end, Matheus Cunha broke down the left into the box and tried a curler to the far post but Lukas Hradecky was on his toes and able to punch the ball away (6'). Shortly after that, Mitchell Weiser picked out Volland on the edge of the six-yard box but Diego Demme was able to clear the ball away for a corner with his left foot before Volland was able to shoot (12’). The game developed into a lively contest between the two top teams.
Hradecky was then centre stage again: The Finn was outstanding in a one-on-one with Timo Werner, keeping his cool and waiting to react before saving with his foot at the near post (15'). That was a really good chance for the visitors. A Sven Bender header from an Amiri cross flew just over the bar immediately before Kai Havertz was stopped in the penalty area by Dayot Upamecano sticking out a leg (21'). The game was full of tempo and passion as both teams constantly endeavour to get forward quickly. A misjudgment by Sven Bender allowed Werner to break through down the left towards the Werkself goal but his effort clearly missed the target (26'). More luck for Bayer 04 when Cunha hit the bar with a skilful lob from distance just before the half-hour mark.
Referee Marco Fritz failed to blow his whistle when Upamecano pulled Bellarabi’s shirt on the edge of the box (31'). A shot from Marcel Halstenberg went past the far post as did a curler from Volland (32'). Marcel Sabitzer turned a low cross from Werner just past the near post (33'). Leipzig again and again posed a threat breaking from the middle. A low drive from Cunha did not pose a problem for Hradecky (38'). The very alert Sinkgraven cleared a dangerous cross from Emil Forsberg (41'). In spite of many high points the sides went in to the half-time break with the score at 0-0.
Wendell replaced Sinkgraven in the left-back position at the start of the second half due to a combination of a yellow card and a knock. Bayer 04 continued to enjoy a lot of possession, Leipzig sat back and, as ever, waited to play on the break. Being too casual on the ball and a lack of position in passing made it more difficult for Leverkusen to control proceedings. Leipzig made two changes up front with Nkunku coming on for Werner (59') and Patrik Schick for Sabitzer (63').
It was the Werkself who broke the deadlock. Bellarabi, who switched to the right wing, played a quick diagonal ball to Charles Aránguiz and his whipped-in cross from the right was converted by Volland for his fourth goal of the season and the 1-0 lead (66'). A great move by the hosts, uncomplicated with a clinical finish. RB coach Julian Nagelsmann made his last attacking change bringing on Yussuf Poulsen for Cunha (70'). Leipzig now had two physically impressive strikers up front in Poulsen and Schick. The dual increased again in terms of intensity with Poulsen and Weiser picking up yellow cards in quick succession (73'). A change for Bayer 04 saw Moussa Diaby replace Bellarabi (75').
The Werkself had succeeded in keeping the opposition away from their own goal better than before the break with Leipzig not having a single chance in the second half up to that point. That changed on 78 minutes: Nkunku skilfully controlled a cross from the left from Halstenberg in a tight space before beating Sven Bender and lobbing the ball over Hradecky into the net to make it 1-1 (70'). The goalscorer then caught Aránguiz as he was about to shoot and the Chilean had to receive treatment on the pitch before being carried off on a stretcher (85'). He was replaced by Demirbay. "The way he caught him could have seen a red card," complained Bayer 04 sporting director Rolfes. Referee Fritz did not even show a yellow card.
There was five minutes of added time in this exciting and close-fought encounter. And the Werkself had one great chance: Julian Baumgartlinger impressively won the ball and Havertz chipped it to Volland but the striker twice failed to beat Gulacsi from close range (90+4'). The Werkself were so close to landing the decisive blow at the end. Nevertheless, with 14 points from the first seven games, Bayer 04 have made the best start to a season since 2013.
The Bundesliga now goes into an international break. The next fixture for Bayer 04 on matchday eight is away to Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday 18 October with a 20.30 CET kick-off.
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Tah, S. Bender, Sinkgraven (Wendell 46’) – Weiser, Baumgartlinger, Aránguiz (Demirbay 89’), Amiri – Havertz, Volland, Bellarabi (Diaby 75’)
RB Leipzig: Gulacsi – Klostermann, Upamecano, Orban, Halstenberg – Laimer, Demme – Sabitzer (Schick 63’), Forsberg – Cunha (Poulsen 70’), Werner (Nkunku 59’)
Goals: 1-0 Volland (66’), 1-1 Nkunku (78’)
Referee: Marco Fritz (Korb)
Booked: Sinkgraven, Weiser – Demme, Poulsen
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