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Unbeaten Leverkusen go 11 points clear
Published on: Sunday, February 25, 2024
By: AFP
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Unbeaten Leverkusen go 11 points clear
Mainz’s goalkeeper Robin Zentner fails to save Bayer Leverkusen’s Granit Xhaka’s (not in picture) opening goal.
LEVERKUSEN: A long-range shot from Robert Andrich took Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen to a 2-1 home win against Mainz on Friday, setting a new German record of 33 games unbeaten.

Andrich’s goal was helped by a goalkeeping mistake from Mainz’s Robin Zentner, who allowed the ball to slip through his hands and into the net.

Leverkusen were nervy and made a number of uncharacteristic errors, but the victory takes them 11 points clear of Bayern Munich in their bid for a first-ever Bundesliga title.

“We have to be honest and say we didn’t play a great game and were a bit lucky to win, but we won’t complain about the three points,” Andrich told DAZN.

Bayern, who announced their plan to part ways with coach Thomas Tuchel in the summer on Wednesday, host RB Leipzig on Saturday.

Leverkusen, who have won 29 and drawn four of their 33 games this season, broke the record set by Hansi Flick’s Bayern between 2019 and 2020 – a run which included a Champions League victory.

“I don’t care (about records) before they happen, but once they happen, I’m really proud,” said coach Xabi Alonso.

“It’s great we’ve achieved that mark. You don’t get medals for it but it’s nice to go through that process.

“We are achieving great things, but we don’t want to stop.”

The week had been dominated by talk of Alonso’s future, amid links to Liverpool to replace Jurgen Klopp, along with the upcoming vacancy in Munich.

Alonso had shut down the rumours, saying any discussion of a return to the clubs he represented during his playing career was “only hypothetical”.

After the match, Andrich told DAZN “we don’t know anything about it, but we take it in our stride.”

“It’s like rumours about a player. As long as everything works well in the dressing room, they can talk about what they like outside of it.”

Granit Xhaka got the hosts off to the best possible start, thumping in a dipping rocket from the edge of the box after just three minutes, his first goal in Leverkusen colours.

“I was under a lot of pressure from my teammates, who reminded me I hadn’t scored a goal yet,” Xhaka told DAZN.

“I’m more than happy and I hope there’s more to come.”

Leverkusen’s elation was short-lived however, with second-bottom Mainz striking back just four minutes later.

Nadiem Amiri, who started the season at Leverkusen before moving to Mainz in search of game time, was the architect of the equaliser, floating in a free kick which rebounded for Dominik Kohr to head in.

Nerveless during their stunning run this season, the goal sucked the momentum out of Leverkusen’s game, with the side’s normally crisp passes missing the target.

The pressure showed as Jeremie Frimpong and Alonso both saw yellow late in the first half having objected to a decision not to call a foul against the Dutch winger.

Mainz had a golden chance to take the lead early in the second half when the normally reliable Edmond Tapsoba passing directly to Lee Jae-sung, but the midfielder blasted over with the goal beckoning.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, midfielder Andrich took a speculative long shot from outside the box.

Zentner, who had impressively kept Leverkusen at bay throughout the match, made a meal of a routine save, allowing the hosts to reclaim the lead.

Late in the match, Mainz were reduced to 10 men, Jessic Ngankam shown a straight red for sinking his studs into Xhaka’s calf, just 15 minutes after coming on.

The decision snuffed out Mainz’s hopes of a comeback and ensured Leverkusen took another major step to a first-ever league crown.  

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