Xabi Alonso is just two games away from dispelling the myth of ‘Neverkusen’ (via Cup). Bayer managed to defeat Stuttgart (3-2) with a last-minute comeback and has already made it to the semi-finals. If they win a title, it would end a drought that has lasted since 1992.
Despite the fact that ‘half’ of the Bundesliga is played on Saturday, hosting Bayern, whom they lead by two points, Xabi Alonso lined up his gala eleven with one exception: Matej Kovar replaced Lukas Hradecky in goal. Edmond Tapsoba returned in Josip Stanisic’s place and made two changes forced by injury: Robert Andrich and Patrik Schick replaced Exequiel Palacios and Victor Boniface. The Spanish Alejandro Grimaldo occupied the left-handed lane, once again, while Borja Iglesias started on the bench.
The game started off rough for Leverkusen, with Angelo Stiller scoring for Stuttgart in the 11th minute. The ‘Xabineta’ struggled to reach the goal defended by Alexander Nübel. Their first dangerous approach in the 40th minute ended in a disallowed goal. Grimaldo almost equalized in the 42nd minute with a free-kick shot over the barrier, but Nübel avoided it ‘in extremis’. The goalkeeper on loan from Bayern also stopped a shot by Schick in the 44th minute after a ‘death pass’ from Wirtz.
Robert Andrich managed to score a great goal to make it 1-1 in the 50th minute. Stuttgart took the lead again in the 58th minute, but Xabi Alonso made a move in search of a comeback by bringing on Borja Iglesias and Amine Adli in the 64th minute instead of Schick and Hofmann. Wirtz filtered a long pass and Adli, one on one, did not forgive in the 67th minute. 2-2.
Extra time was ‘chewed’ when a header between Hiroki Ito and Adli came off the crossbar in the 88th minute. Another header, this time from Jonathan Tah, made it 3-2 in the 90th minute. The captain did not waste Wirtz’s sublime center. The myth of ‘Neverkusen’ is closer to being broken than ever. If Bayer wins the title, it would be their first since 1992. This victory puts them in a strong position to achieve that goal.
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