What the papers say: 'Back in the race for a European slot'

The reports on the 1-0 win for the Werkself in the Bundesliga game at VfB Stuttgart agree it was a deserved victory. Here is a range of what the papers say…

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reports: "After three Bundesliga defeats against Werder Bremen  (1-3), TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (1-4) and RB Leipzig (2-4), Bayer Leverkusen secured a workmanlike but deserved victory at Stuttgart on Saturday. Kai Havertz scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot on 64 minutes against a committed but relatively harmless VfB who remain stuck in the play-off position of sixteenth in the table. In contrast, Bayer have moved up to seventh and are back in touch with the positions that can guarantee European football."

The Bild am Sonntag focuses on the red card for the Stuttgart player Ascacibar who was sent off in the first minute of added time by referee Tobias Stieler: "VfB have dropped down into the relegation zone. Fear of relegation continues to grow after the 1-0 defeat against Leverkusen with just one win in the last 14 games. But the decline on the pitch has now been joined by an awful blackout. The 91st minute: With only seconds to go, Santiago Ascacibar (22) spits at his opponent Kai Havertz (19). Referee Tobias Stieler immediately decides to pull out the red card. Like a bodyguard, he puts himself in the way of Ascacibar who attempts to carry on spitting at Havertz by holding onto his mouth. Leverkusen's midfield enforcer Julian Baumgartlinger: 'The referee did a great job. I was surprised he made such a quick decision. He put himself in between them otherwise he would have continued.'"
The BamS has done their research on Kai Havertz: "The national player is becoming increasingly valuable. He's converted all of his three penalties this term. And 13 goals in the season are almost a record for a 19-year-old. Only Horst Köppel (now 70) achieved that feat at an earlier age in 1968 (45 days younger than Havertz)."

The Rheinische Post also examines the spitting by Ascacibar: "The low point of the game was provided by Santiago Ascacibar who spat at Kai Havertz just before the final whistle – an experience that the Bayer sporting managing director had at the World Cup in 1990. The game was coming to an end when Santiago Ascacibar lost the plot. After  an innocuous challenge, the Stuttgart player spat at his opponent Kai Havertz, tried to make contact with the 19 year-old's face and was justifiably shown the red card. That and the ensuing melee was the emotional finale to a hectic closing stage of the game that ended in a 1-0 win for the Werkself in spite of all the efforts made by VfB.
It was an extremely important win for Leverkusen on Rudi Völler's 59th birthday. The sporting managing director at Bayer 04 was suitably relieved after the hard-fought 90 minutes at Stuttgart.'It's good for the position in the backtable, our confidence and sharpens us up for the next game against Nürnberg on Saturday,' said the World Cup winner of 1990 who was also the victim of an now almost legendary spitting incident. The image of his Dutch opponent Frank Rijkaard spitting into Völler's hair at the World Cup in Italy has long been part of the collective memory of world football. 'You don't do that. I've spoken to Kai and explained to him what happened to me. He's a player who will be provoked a lot in the coming years. The most important thing is that he didn't lose his cool,' said the 59 year-old." 

The Kicker reports: "After three defeats in succession, Bayer 04 are back in the race for a European slot with a deserved, if hard-fought, 1-0 win at VfB Stuttgart. The way the Werkself played in Swabia drew the approval of those involved –  even if only in part.  … The Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz said before the game that they had worked on their own approach in possession and when the ball has been lost. That clearly worked out in the end. After eleven goals conceded in the last three games, Bayer kept a clean sheet this time."

The Kölner Stadt Anzeiger approved: "In Bayer 04's game there was initially, above all, the readiness to chase lost balls because there were a lot of them. The central defenders were particularly attentive. After the first half hour, the favourites' game slowly started to shine with the first goalscoring chances arising." Man of the match for the Stadt Anzeiger was Kai Havertz: "In spite of a rather average more than spectacular performance, it was because he converted the penalty under pressure. The fact that is not a given is demonstrated by the recent history for Bayer 04 that is a history of missed penalties. Havertz scored his third of the season and since his time in the Bayer 04 and Germany U 17 's he has a return of 100%."  The newspaper comes to the following conclusion: "It was a regulation win without any great entertainment value. … After three defeats in succession, any win is a good win. Regardless of how it looks. There was nothing to show off about this 1-0 scoreline at Stuttgart. Against the teams at the bottom Nürnberg and Augsburg, Bayer's next opponents, a performance like that might not be enough."

The Stuttgarter Nachrichten saw the former Leverkusen player Gonzalo Castro as the man who decided the result: "After a surprisingly quick return from injury, the midfielder had a solid game against his former club. Up to the 63rd minute. The German-Spaniard then brought Kevin Volland down on the edge of the penalty area. A clear penalty. Havertz scored the match-winner. Castro made an almost identical error in the 3-1 defeat for VfB at Dortmund. 'The goal was down to me and therefore the defeat as well,' said the midfielder. VfB could have earned a 0-0 draw (but nothing more than that) as the visitors lacked penetration up front."

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