The Friday night takeaway: Leverkusen go eleven points clear with Mainz win

It wasn’t as straightforward as the team’s league positions would have suggested, but Bayer Leverkusen overcame Mainz 2-1 at the Bay Arena to open up an 11-point lead over second place Bayern Munich. A rare goal from Granit Xhaka opened the scoring only for Dominik Kohr to head in an equaliser minutes later. 

The hosts plugged away and were rewarded in the 68th minute when an absolute howler from Robin Zentner allowed the Werkself to regain the lead. The final ten minutes were an uphill struggle with the Nullfünfer reduced to ten men. Here are five takeaways from the Friday night action….

1- Leverkusen as history makers

The win not only sees Leverkusen take a massive psychological step towards the Meisterschale by opening up an eleven point lead over Bayern (until tomorrow at least), but it also witnessed them beating an existing Bundesliga/ Bayern record regarding unbeaten matches.

The Rhine club have now gone 33 matches without defeat across all competitions this season, bettering the previous record set by the Rekordmeister across the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons by Hansi Flick’s side.

2- A Swiss rarity

They don’t come around very often, but when they do they are usually quite special and Granit Xhaka finally grabbed his first goal for Bayer Leverkusen with the opener in the third minute. Grimaldo passed from the left to the Swiss midfielder, who fired in directly from the left corner of the penalty area. Zentner in the Mainz goal had no chance to save it as it flew past him into the net. 

Xhaka had even rehearsed a novelty goal celebration where he feigned an injury, before revealing his fully functioning leg. The Leverkusen physio however didn’t see the funny side and was nearly in need of the defibrillator!

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3- The happy centurions

Leverkusen had two centurions celebrating the hard fought win with Florian Wirtz making his 100th Bundesliga appearance for the club and Robert Andrich making his 100th appearance across all competitions. Wirtz was at the heart of all Bayer’s attacking moves, while Andrich got what turned out to be the winner with a keeper-assisted goal in the second half.

4- Jeepers keepers!

Mainz were good for their share of the spoils at half time, but knew they would have to defend resolutely if they were to leave with a point against one of the most potent attacking teams in Europe. It doesn’t however help your cause when your goalkeeper produces a blooper of epic proportions.

Robert Andrich’s shot just after the hour mark was speculative at best and seemed destined to be caught easily by Robin Zentner. His fumble however slipped agonisingly through his gloves and into the net behind him. The German word ‘Kacktor’ was invented for moments like this.

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5- Short shift

Winter transfer window signing Jessic Ngankam was sent on by Mainz coach Bo Henriksen on 65 minutes for Brajan Gruda. Three minutes later and Leverkusen were ahead 2-1 and then just fifteen minutes after his introduction he was back down the tunnel having been sent off for a late tackle on Granit Xhaka.

The referee had originally given a yellow, but a quick consult of the VAR monitor showed it was a nasty challenge. It was wholly unintentional, but reckless and very painful for the Leverkusen anchorman. The expulsion left an already-stretched Mainz even more stretched and allowed Bayer to play the ball around with ease to run down the final ten minutes.  

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About Mathew Burt 1058 Articles
Former writer at and JustFootball, I've been doing my thing for Bundesliga Fanatic since 2015. A long-suffering Werder Bremen fan and disciple of the Germanic holy trinity...Bier. Wurst und Fußball

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