Leverkusen crash out of Champions League after 1-1 draw
Leverkusen (Germany), Dec 10 (IANS) Wasteful Bayer Leverkusen crashed out of the European Champions League after sharing the spoils with Barcelona’s second string side in the last round of the group stage here. Barcelona’s progression and top spot was already sealed with one game to spare whereas Leverkusen needed on Wednesday a victory to stand any chance for the knockout stage, reports Xinhua.
Although Barcelona rested a number of first-team footballers, Leverkusen failed to grab a win, despite many opportunities on home soil. Especially Barcelona’s goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen drove the hosts to desperation as he defused promising chances over and over again. Due to the fact that only a win would be enough, Roger Schmidt’s men piled on the pressure from the kick-off. As a consequence, Hakan Calhanoglu tested ter Stegen with a dangerous free kick on target in the opening period.
However, just as Leverkusen were pressing for the opener, the Catalans broke the deadlock against the run of the game. Ivan Rakitic’s pinpoint through ball found Lionel Messi, who rounded onrushing Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno to tap home into the open goal with 20 minutes played. The hosts kept it bowling and responded only three minutes later as Admir Mehmedi’s square pass into the box allowed Javier Hernandez to slot home the equaliser. Leverkusen continued their run on Barcelona’s goal but neither Calhanoglu nor Karim Bellarabi were able to turn their chances into a tangible reward. As the match progressed, the “Werkself” lacked in ideas to overcome Barcelona’s bulwark.
Roger Schmidt’s men continued to remain wasteful at the finish. If it wasn’t their weak finish, it was Barcelona’s goalkeeper ter Stegen, who was on guard when it mattered. With the result Barcelona oust Leverkusen from the Champions League. The “Werkself” will have to be content with the Europa League. “That is a drama. I am shocked that we did not manage to win this game. The fact that BATE Borisov drew in Rome makes it a tragedy for us,” Leverkusen coach Schmidt said. Luis Enrique’s men completed the group stage atop the table in Group E with 14 points followed by Roma (6 points), Leverkusen (6 points) and BATE Borisov (5 points).
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