Gladbach salvage point at Leverkusen; Wolfsburg lose ground

BY Jerry Trecker • December 14, 2014

Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Moenchengladbach remained virtually inseparable Sunday after playing a 1-1 draw that kept both teams in the top four of the Bundesliga.

Hakan Calhanoglu and Roel Brouwers scored the goals in an open contest that saw both keepers, Leverkusen's Bernd Leno and Gladbach's Yann Sommer, produce big saves when required.

The result left Bayer third and Gladbach fourth by virtue of the fact that Leverkusen has scored more goals. Both have the same goal-difference (plus seven) as they moved ahead of Augsburg, the third side on 24 points, all 15 behind defending champion and runaway-leader Bayern Munich.

Neither keeper had a ghost of a chance of stopping the first half goals, both spectacular finishes. Calhanoglu took a headed-on pass from Stefan Kiessling, powered to the top of the box on the right, then clipped his shot over Sommer to the far top corner to put Leverkusen in front in the 18th minute. It was the fourth goal of the season for Bayer's free kick expert, but the first one which did not result from a set piece.

Gladbach got even five minutes before the break after winning a corner on the right. Thorgen Hazard's delivery to the near post was caught first time on the boot of Roel Brouwers, whose volley sped past Leno into the low right corner. It was the first goal in two seasons for the veteran Dutchman making just his fourth appearance of the season. It was also the first time Gladbach had converted off a corner this season.

Brouwers should have scored again nine minutes into the second half when Max Kruse nodded on a Hazard corner. The ball fell to Brouwers five-yards from a gaping net, but he didn't control it, lifting the shot over Leno's bar. That proved a let-off that Leverkusen required to keep a share of the points.

Second-place VfL Wolfsburg fell further behind Bayern when they wasted opportunities in a 1-1 home draw against SC Paderborn in the night kickoff. That left them nine points adrift of the leaders as the Bundesliga title chase appears all but settled before the holiday break.

It was another dogged performance from Paderborn, which continues to exceed expectations. With the point they sit tenth in the table. Remarkably, they are just five points off a European place and, simultaneously, only five points ahead of bottom-sitting VfB Stuttgart.

The result will be particularly frustrating for Wolfsburg because took control from the start and were on top after 18 minutes. Ivan Perisic had two chances to cross and made no mistake with the second. It found Vieirinha with room at the far post to head back to the opposite corner. The ball was about to cross the line when Spanish defender Rafa Lopez tried to hook it over the bar but wound up putting it into the roof of his own net.

Then it began to go wrong for the Bundesliga's second-place side.

They should have been two goals clear on the half-hour but Lukas Kruse saved Perisic's penalty after Christian Strohdiek had pushed down Bas Dost to give the home team the spot kick. Three minutes later, Dost crashed a chance off the bar when he deflected a cross straight into the underside of the woodwork from close range.

Dost then was denied a 44th minute goal when he finished a Kevin De Bruyne cross with aplomb. Referee Manuel Graefe waved it off for a Dost foul on Strohdiek as the two came together before Dost finished the move. It was a split-second decision and appeared that Dost may have been hard done by.

Graefe then made fewer friends in the 51st minute when he decided that Naldo had used a high boot to keep Strohdiek from getting a chance and awarded a penalty that Alban Meha put away to get Paderborn level.

Wolfsburg continued to press but a combination of poor shot selection and Kruse's positioning, combined with some good fortune for Paderborn, kept them from finishing the many chances they created. In fact, Marvin Bakalorz nearly snatched a win for the visitors in the 86th minute when he got in on the right only to see his shot blocked.

Bayern can further increase its league lead Tuesday night when they host SC Freiburg to kickoff a full midweek Bundesliga program, the penultimate round before the Winterpause starts following next Sunday's matches.