Thanks to national player Florian Wirtz, Bayer Leverkusen can dream of reaching the semi-finals in the Europa League.
With a late goal (82nd), the 19-year-old precious technician saved the team of coach Xabi Alonso on Thursday in the quarter-final first leg against Union Saint-Gilloise a 1-1 (0-0). Top scorer Victor Boniface (51st) had previously given the Belgians the lead.
Should Bayer move into a European semi-final in the second leg next Thursday for the first time since the treble-runners-up season 2001/02, on 11./18. May the winner of the duel between Feyenoord Rotterdam and AS Roma await. The Dutch won the first leg 1-0.
Leverkusen, meanwhile, have been unbeaten in ten competitive games in a row, but have an unpleasant task ahead of them in the second leg. Union Berlin also initially drew against the Belgians in the round of 16 at home, but then lost 3-0 in the second leg at RSC Anderlecht’s stadium.
The euphoria of the past games could already be felt among the Bayer fans before the kick-off: two hours before the game, thousands of supporters greeted the team bus on Bismarckstraße with songs and pyrotechnics, when they walked in there was a choreo and the motto “You for us, we for you” committed to the decisive weeks in the league and the European Cup.
However, the team was initially unable to build on the pace of football of the past few weeks, acting nervously and making mistakes against the unpleasant and robust guests who had already defeated Union Berlin in the round of 16.
National player Florian Wirtz put his first low shot just wide of the goal after a nice dribbling (7th). On the other hand, a random product caused danger: Captain Lukas Hradecky had already seen an arc lamp from Lazare Amani out of bounds, but the ball still fell on the crossbar (13th).
Boniface puts a damper on the sold-out BayArena
The guests, second in the Belgian league, stayed tuned. After a corner it was again the crossbar that saved Bayer from going behind. Tah unluckily extended his hand, but the VAR had no objection (29′). The beefy striker Victor Boniface had previously beaten two Leverkusen players and forced a powerful shot from Hradecky (28′).
However, Bayer had the best chance of scoring the opener: goalkeeper Anthony Moris was already overtaken after a cross from Jeremie Frimpong, but Piero Hincapie failed to hit the empty goal with his head (40′). In injury time, Diaby narrowly missed again.
With the first good opportunity in the second half, Boniface put a damper on the euphoric atmosphere in the sold-out BayArena, hitting the far corner from the edge of the penalty area. However, Bayer ran and created chances – Jeremie Frimpong (78′) headed over from just five yards out before Wirtz took aim from the edge of the penalty area and let Leverkusen celebrate.