Bernd Leno put on his Superman cape when it mattered most and Bayer Leverkusen escaped elimination from the German Cup at Fourth Division 1. FC Magdeburg in dramatic circumstances Wednesday night.
Playing before its first sellout crowd in three decades, the former DDR Oberliga power led the UEFA Champions Leaguers twice, 2-1 with eight minutes of extra time to play and then in penalty kicks, but first Kyriakos Papadopoulos, then goalkeeper Leno came to Leverkusen’s rescue in the second round match. Papadopoulos headed in a 115th-minute equalizer to send the decision to penalties where Leno emerged the hero by saving three of the final four Magdeburg spot kicks, two of them potential match-winners.
There was no difficulty for the other Bundesliga clubs playing Wednesday, Bayern Munich, Borussia Moenchengladbach, TSG Hoffenheim, VfL Wolfsburg and SC Freiburg all advancing easily enough while RB Leipzig needed extra time to eliminate Erzgebirge Aue in an all-Second Bundesliga clash. Second level Eintracht Braunschweig took care of fourth-tier Wurzburger Kickers in the night’s other pairing.
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The drama was in Magdeburg, however, where Leverkusen appeared to be on easy street when Hakan Calhanoglu swerved a 25 yard free kick past a surprised Jan Glinker just three minutes after the opening kickoff. But the Bundesliga club could not drive on from there and when Christoph Siekes dispossessed Papadopoulos and started a successful counter in the 28th minute the match was suddenly level. Siekes raced down the right side, exchanged passes with Christian Beck, then beat Leno.
Leverkusen pressed at the start of the second half but lost Son Heung-min to a 77th red card and suddenly the rank outsiders were in with a real chance. They could not force a goal in the remainder of regulation time, but went ahead with a brilliant strike in the extra time. It was Niklas Brandt, letting fly from 25 yards, who found the top corner of the net in the 111th minute to send the 24,000-sellout crowd wild. But their joy lasted just three minutes when Papadopoulos got above everyone to a Julian Brandt free kick to level matters at 2-2.
What happened in the penalty kick decider will no doubt become local lore in Magdeburg where the opportunity to reach the third round appeared real until Leno took it all away. Ginkler had saved Leverkusen’s first penalty and when Stefan Kiessling struck the fourth Bayer spot kick off the bar Magdeburg led by two with two chances to clinch their spot. Leno, however, saved both the fourth and fifth kicks to send the tie-breaker into sudden death tied at 3-3.
Both teams scored in the sixth round and young Croatian defender Tin Jedvaj put Leverkusen ahead when he struck the seventh round shot home. Leno then denied Lars Fuchs and the home fans were left to wonder what might have been.
Bayern used an early Robert Lewandowski goal to take charge at Hamburg, further strikes from David Alaba and Franck Ribery ensuring that the German Cup holders will be in the third round draw. Pierre-Michel Lasogga got HSV’s consolation with an 85th minute header in the 3-1 defeat, one of only two all-Bundesliga pairings in the second round.
Gladbach worked hard to top Eintracht Frankfurt in the other, taking an 18th minute lead through Torghan Hazard before Ibrahima Traore scored what proved to be a necessary goal with 23 minutes left. That meant that an 88th minute goal from Vaclav Kadlec only made it close for the home side, eliminated by the 2-1 scoreline.
Hoffenheim’s 5-1 home win over second-level FSV Frankfurt was every bit that convincing. Sven Schipplock, Jannik Vestergard and Anthony Modeste all scored while Roberto Firmino added two for the Bundesliga challengers. Andre Schembri got FSV’s consolation.
Wolfsburg fell behind to a 12th minute Marc Schnatterer goal, but that was the only moment of glory for Heidenheim. The second Bundesliga side saw Daniel Caligiuri equalize and Bas Dost put Wolfsburg ahead before halftime, then Luis Gustavo added two in the second half for a 4-1 final scoreline.
Freiburg used a hat trick from Admir Mehmedi to roll past TSV 1860 Munich, 5-2, the last-place second division team which managed draw 18,000 to the Allianz Arena for the chance of seeing some German Cup glory. Although Valdet Rama put TSV on top in the 15th minute, Sebastian Freis levelled matters 10 minutes later before setting up Mehmedi, who scored the next goals to provide Freiburg a lead they never lost.
The RB Leipzig hero was Yussuf Poulsen, who rose high at the near post in the 90th minute to get his team into extra time against Erzgebirge Aue. Dominik Kaiser, 98th minute, and German-American Terrence Boyd, 109th, then produced the winning goals that offset a first half own goal from Lukas Klostermann that had staked Aue to its lead.
Havard Nielsen scored Braunschweig’s only goal in the 78th minute and Wurzburger had an apparent equalizer disallowed for offside four minutes from the finish.