4-game ban may have helped Leverkusen winger Karim Bellarabi

BERLIN (AP) — In a story Nov. 1 about Bayer Leverkusen winger Karim Bellarabi, The Associated Press reported erroneously that Leverkusen beat FC Zurich 3-2 in the Europa League. Leverkusen lost 3-2.

A corrected version of the story is below:

4-game ban may have helped Leverkusen winger Karim Bellarabi

A four-game suspension may have been the best thing to happen to Karim Bellarabi

By CIARAN FAHEY

Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — A four-game suspension may have been the best thing to happen to Karim Bellarabi this season.

The Bayer Leverkusen winger has returned stronger after serving the ban for a bad tackle on Bayern Munich defender Rafinha on Sept. 15.

Bellarabi scored two goals in Bayer Leverkusen’s 5-0 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach in the German Cup on Wednesday, only days after he starred in the 6-2 win at Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga.

He set up both opening goals before scoring himself against Bremen.

The former Germany winger was harshly criticized after the challenge on Rafinha – Bayern president Uli Hoeness called him “mentally ill” and proposed a three-month ban. In the end, Bellarabi received a four-week suspension.

The 28-year-old Bellarabi made his comeback as a late substitute against Hannover and he salvaged a 2-2 draw with the equalizer in the fourth minute of injury time. He then scored two goals in the 3-2 loss at FC Zurich in the Europa League before his superb performances in Bremen and Moenchengladbach.

The latest results ease the pressure on Leverkusen coach Heiko Herrlich after a lackluster start to the season. Herrlich played his part in getting the best back from Bellarabi, who collapsed due to the heat in a pre-season friendly and hadn’t made an impact once the season began.

“We had a lot of talks. There are things that I also demanded of him last year that he’s putting into place now,” Herrlich said. “I hope his run lasts a bit longer.”

Bellarabi’s return – and his return to form – appears to have lifted teammates like Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland, too. They’ve all scored in the past games.

Bellarabi, who made the last of his 11 appearances for Germany in a friendly against Finland in August 2016, looks revitalized from the enforced break.

“I always asked him if he still had the hunger, and told him there were people around here that thought he didn’t have this hunger anymore,” Herrlich said. “I had the feeling he felt attacked and that he wanted to show that he still had this hunger. You could definitely see that in the last games.”

Leverkusen, which is 12th in Bundesliga, next faces visiting Hoffenheim on Saturday.

FRANKFURT FIREPOWER

Eintracht Frankfurt coach Adi Huetter has plenty of options ahead of Friday’s visit to Stuttgart – he needs to pick two from three top forwards.

Eighteen-year-old Luka Jovic scored five goals in a recent 7-1 rout of Fortuna Duesseldorf, Ante Rebic scored in three consecutive games earlier, and Sebastien Haller has six goals and six assists in the league so far.

Haller boosted his case by scoring the equalizer as a substitute in the 1-1 draw at Nuremberg last weekend.