Penalty thriller and historic advancement for Bayer Leverkusen: In the midst of a disappointing season, the Bundesliga soccer club set an example internationally and made it through the 30th European Cup participation for the first time despite a home defeat. Coach Xabi Alonso’s team won 5: 3 (3: 2, 2: 1) on penalties at AS Monaco, third in the French league, and despite the 2: 3 in their own stadium a week ago, they reached the round of 16 in the Europa League.
National player Florian Wirtz used Bayern’s loanee Nübel to make it 1-0 in the 13th minute, making him the youngest player to score seven goals in the Europa League at the age of 19. After a quick equalizer from a penalty kick by Monaco captain Wissam Ben Yedder (19′), Bayer hit back even faster (21′) through Argentinian world champion Exequiel Palacios. The strong Frenchman Amine Adli secured the supposed progress (56th), before Breel Embolo (84th) marked the 2: 3 for Monaco shortly after his substitution and forced extra time. After the goalless 30 minutes, Moussa Diaby converted the decisive penalty.
The game started intensely. Initially, however, there was no sign of the animosity between the two teams after the mass scuffle after the first leg and the corresponding comments afterwards. Both acted in a controlled and disciplined manner. The guests from Leverkusen showed from the start that they wanted to play for the win they needed, but were almost caught cold when Ben Yedder shot just wide from the turn (4′).
Then Bayer became more purposeful. When Adli shot, Nübel reacted splendidly. A few seconds later he gave Bayer the 1-0 lead, which equalized the deficit from the first leg. A sharp cross from Jeremie Frimpong slipped under his stomach and Wirtz pushed the ball from three meters into the empty goal.
As so often this season, Bayer gave such happy circumstances back. Edmond Tapsoba fouled Eliesse Ben Seghir in the box and Ben Yedder converted the spot kick safely. But this time Leverkusen fought back with a sharp left-footed shot from Palacios, against which Nübel was powerless. In the 34th minute against Adam Hlozek he made a strong save again.
The Bundesliga side survived the first attack swing of the Monegasques after the break well – and then immediately followed up with Adli’s header after a nice cross from Wirtz. Now Monaco had to come. AS quickly did so with a crossbar hit by Ben Yedder (59′), but then Leverkusen took control again. Mitchel Bakker even scored what was supposed to be 1:4, but was just offside (63′). Six minutes before the end, however, former Mönchengladbacher Embolo scored and ensured extra time, which remained goalless. Then Bayer had the better end on penalties.
“It’s definitely very nice to be able to celebrate with everyone again,” said Wirtz on the RTL TV channel after a first small party with the fans. He expected them to win. “But it’s still very nice to let the emotions out. It wasn’t an easy game, so the atmosphere is really good.” Despite missing seven out of eight penalties this season, he had few concerns before the showdown. “I didn’t expect us to put five in. But in the last few weeks it has been practiced a few times in training. That probably paid off,” said the youngster.