Schalke 04 and Bayer Leverkusen played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga on Sunday afternoon.
The hosts, who fielded their youngest starting XI in the league since December 2016, were seemingly on course to grab a much-needed win but Leverkusen managed to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat.
Leverkusen subsequently find themselves sitting in the Champions League places with destiny firmly in their hands. As for the Royal Blues, it’s another game without tasting victory.
Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are three of each from this encounter.
Having an industrious full-back that loves to get forward is a major plus in the modern game. Leverkusen are fortunate to call upon uncapped Brazilian left-back Wendell, who in recent weeks has forced his way back into Peter Bosz’s lineup. After Sunday’s performance, the chances of him being dropped must be low.Wendell was involved in everything Leverkusen did positively. No one on the pitch touched the ball more times (144), and he played a key role in their equaliser. His cut-back seemed destined for compatriot Paulinho, who had just come on moments earlier, but it was blocked. That being said, Juan Miranda — Wendell’s opposite number — inadvertently put the ball into his own net.
Loser: Kai Havertz
A few months ago, Bayer Leverkusen manager Bosz stated that midfielder Kai Havertz will command a transfer fee of €100m, a belief very few would disagree with given his unquestionable talent and upside. The native of Aachen, who turned 21 a few days earlier, had been making transfer headlines with a number of Europe’s superclubs reportedly keen to acquire his signature this summer.
Sunday’s game in Gelsenkirchen was a comeback of sorts after he missed Leverkusen’s last two games due to injury. With all eyes on him to make an immediate impact after returning to Bosz’s starting line-up, Havertz was uncharacteristically subdued, losing possession and not being his usual threat in the final third. He’d ultimately play 70 minutes before making way for Kevin Volland.
Kutucu wasn’t the youngest player on the pitch, that distinct honour went to 19-year-old Can Bozdogan. Though nominally a central midfielder, the fearless teen was fielded on the left flank in an orthodox 4-4-2 and to say he played beyond his years would be an understatement.
Making his full debut, Bozdogan showed great awareness and composure, while never being afraid to play an ambitious ball. He completed three take-ons and created a single chance, modest figures no doubt, but as many as any of his teammates. This impressive first outing, which lasted 69 minutes, surely brings a smile to supporters’ faces.
Ever-present since joining from Vitória Guimarães earlier this year, Edmond Tapsoba has seldom put a foot wrong for Bayer Leverkusen, that couldn’t be said moments after the break when on-field referee Daniel Siebert, via the aid of VAR, adjudged him to have committed a handball offence after Jonjoe Kenny’s cross into the penalty area.
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However, on closer inspection, it felt like a harsh call as it seemed Tapsoba was pushed into the ball. Ironically, without the video assistant referee, it wouldn’t have been given. Daniel Caligiuri, who duly converted, wasn’t complaining as Schalke need all the brakes they can get right now.
Winner: Schalke’s ’93 team
Former Huddersfield Town boss David Wagner was feeling it heading into this weekend. Wagner had overseen a run of 12 league matches without a win, accumulating five points in the process, which equalled a club record from 27 years ago. Being dragged into a relegation battle is now out of the question, thankfully, but it hasn’t been pretty.
+++ ABPFIFF +++
Schalke und @bayer04fussball trennen sich mit 1:1 ⚖️#S04 | ?⚪️ | #S04B04 pic.twitter.com/EFA5s7VB9q
— FC Schalke 04 (?) (@s04) June 14, 2020
Knowing that he was desperate for all three points, Wagner wasn’t counting his chickens before they hatched and that proved the correct decision when Leverkusen forced an equaliser inside the final ten minutes. His team’s misfortune subsequently means their 1993 team no longer owns the club’s longest Bundesliga winless streak.
Loser: Ahmed Kutucu
You can forgive Ahmed Kutucu for fluffing his lines with the game being two minutes old. Wagner, feeling the pressure, opted for youth on Sunday. No fewer than eight of his starters were under 25 with six of them — including Kutucu — aged 21 or younger. Banking on exuberance to get Schalke out of their current predicament is a gamble, but after exhausting all options, this seems poetic given the club’s reputation of bringing through and developing stars.
Kutucu is someone we could potentially describe as great one day, the 20-year-old hometown boy has already racked up 40 appearances, and bagging six goals in the process, since emerging from Schalke’s esteemed academy. Starts, though, have been few and far between with this being only his fourth in the Bundesliga, and Kutucu had to bury from close range after Lukás Hrádecky parried Weston Mckennie’s fierce shot into his path. It proved to be his only misstep, but pivotal given the context of their situation.