Karim Bellarabi’s first-half goal was the enough for Bayer Leverkusen to claim a 1-0 win over Sporting CP at Estadio Jose Alvalade on Thursday.
- Sporting CP 0 Bayer Leverkusen 1
- Bellarabi scores away goal
- Ruben Semedo red carded
Leverkusen produced a strong performance away from home and scored the crucial goal midway through the second half when a delicious ball from Tin Jedvaj picked out Karim Bellarabi at the far post.
The Bundesliga side continued to dominate after the break, but couldn’t find a second goal, and will now take a narrow aggregate lead and potentially crucial away goal back to Germany for the second leg at BayArena.
Bayer were a threat right from the off, and had their first real chance in the 13th minute when Karim Bellarabi had a run at Joao Pereira and won a free kick on the edge of the box, from which set-piece maestro Hakan Calhanoglu was able to pick out Omer Toprak, but the defender couldn’t keep his header down.
A couple of minutes later and Stefan Kiessling earned them another free kick, and this time Calhanoglu decided to try his luck and go for goal himself, but it was well wide.
The first shot on target came in the 19th minute, when Sporting left-back Jefferson, who arrived late onto a loose ball and rifled a stinging shot on target that goalkeeper Bernd Leno was able to parry away, as the Portuguese side suddenly claimed the upper hand in the general run of play.
But it would be the German visitors who broke the deadlock against the run of play in the 26th minute. Right-back Tin Jedvaj was played through down the right flank and whipped in a wicked cross towards the back post, where Bellarabi was arriving just in time to tuck it in.
10 minutes into the second half and Leverkusen were beginning to dominate, despite the match settling into a relatively cagey and lacklustre affair. It was, however, lit up by Calhanoglu on the hour mark with another terrific set-piece delivery that picked out Admir Mehmedi at the far post, but goalkeeper Rui Patricio was able to get there in time to push it to safety.
The Germans threatened again in the 68th minute, with Bellarabi charging at goal and picking out Calhanoglu in the middle, who had a strike first-time, but Ruben Semedo was in the right place to make the block.
But Semedo was about to find himself in trouble in the 74th minute, who lunged recklessly at Bellarabi in the middle of the pitch. There was little danger and no need for the challenge, which earned him his second yellow card and an early exit from the pitch.
Patricio then needed to be at his best when Mehmedi released a vicious drive from close range that the Portugal international did brilliantly to push away, and it was possibly a crucial save in keeping his side firmly in the tie.