It was clear to see from the off that the team wanted to make up for the weekend. Less than 30 seconds were on the clock before the Werkself carved out their first chance, Moussa Diaby charged down the left and teed up Lucas Alario, bit his first-time effort was well saved by Claudio Bravo before Karim Bellarabi put the rebound against the post – but he was offside in any case.
Alario and Bellarabi were two of the six players to come into the team after the 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich. The other changes by coach Gerardo Seoane were Piero Hincapie, Andrich, Amine Adli and – making his first start of the season – Edmond Tapsoba. Odilon Kossounou, Mitchel Bakker, Nadiem Amiri, Florian Wirtz, Paulinho and Patrik Schick all dropped to the bench.
Despite the many changes, Bayer 04 looked a well drilled side and had Betis up against the wall in the opening stages. But they couldn’t reap the reward for that effort as they missed two more great chances after Alario’s. Diaby had raced beyond Bravo but didn’t back himself to finish into the open net, instead laying back a pass that failed to meet Alario. The Argentine striker flicked on a free-kick from Kerem Demirbay not long after, but only found the crossbar on 11 minutes. The hosts were lucky not to be behind against an aggressive Werkself.
Leverkusen continued to pose a threat with their speed down the flanks. That was how the next good chance came about through Jeremie Frimpong’s run down the right. However, Adli failed to beat Bravo following the cutback. The game was 24 minutes old when Betis finally created their first chance, but it was a big one. Iglesias’s effort from 20 yards was only parried by Lukas Hradecky. The unchallenged Aitor Ruibal then fired over. The hosts then got into the game and it opened up, with Joaquin and Bellarabi both having efforts.
Things calmed down midway through the first half as the game evened out some more. The Werkself continued to control the play but weren’t as resolute in the final third as they had been in the opening period. In any case, the final chance of the first period fell to Betis, but Tapsoba made a great block against Nabil Fekir and Iglesias then fired the ensuing corner over.
There were half chances for both teams at the start of the second half as well. Betis were looking stronger and Hradecky was called into action to deny substitute Diego Lainez and an effort from range by Ruibal. Leverkusen’s first moment of danger came on 65 minutes, but Bravo thwarted Adli.
The game was on a knife’s edge midway through the second half and the teams almost exchanged attacks. It was looking like it would come down to fine margins like a mistake, which came on 75 minutes when Frimpong handled a Betis free-kick into the box. After a VAR review, the Polish referee pointed to the spot. Iglesias stepped up and converted down the middle.
Bayer 04 now had to step up and replied quickly. Diaby thought he’d equalised on 81 minutes but was flagged offside. Moments later, the ball was in the Betis goal again but this one counted. Diaby’s cross was cleared by the hosts but only as far as Andrich, whose drive from 25 yards deflected past Bravo to give him a goal on his European debut.
It was all square, but Betis were once again the more active side and Hradecky had to make a save from Guido Rodriguez. The tireless Werkself kept going, though, and got a second wind in added time with two more big chances. Bravo first denied substitute Bakker at his near post three minutes into stoppage time before the Chilean saved with his feet after Wirtz and Demirbay combined in the final seconds.
It finished 1-1 as Bayer 04 return from Spain with a deserved point. The result keeps the sides level at the top of Group G, but Leverkusen remain in first place thanks to their superior goal difference ahead of the reverse fixture against Betis at the BayArena in a fortnight on 4 November. Before then, though, it’s the derby against 1. FC Köln in the Bundesliga on Sunday, 24 October at 15:30 CEST.
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Frimpong, Tah, Tapsoba, Hincapie (Bakker 76') – Andrich, Demirbay – Diaby (Palacios 90'+1), Adli (Wirtz 69'), Bellarabi (Paulinho 76') – Alario (Schick 69')
Real Betis: Bravo - Montoya, Pezzella, Gonzalez, Miranda (Moreno 46') - Rodriguez, Carvalho - Joaquin (Lainez 46'), Fekir (Canales 64'), Ruibal (Juanmi 71') - Iglesias (José 85')
Goals: 1-0 Iglesias (pen, 75'), 1-1 Andrich (82')
Yellow cards: Miranda, Pezzella - Alario, Tapsoba, Hincapie, Diaby
Referee: Bartosz Frankowski (Poland)
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