Argentina’s world champions Exequiel Palacios struck twice from the spot as Bayer Leverkusen opened up the Bundesliga title race with a surprise 2-1 win over Bayern Munich on Sunday.
With a little help from VAR, Leverkusen came from behind to give coach Xabi Alonso a famous win in his first reunion with former club Bayern and stop the champions from returning to the top.
“It’s an incredible feeling. I’m so proud of how we played today,” said Alonso, who played for Bayern Munich from 2014 to 2017.
Bayern are a point behind leaders Borussia Dortmund and the two teams will meet in the next round on April 1st.
“This is now a mandatory game for us because otherwise it will be very difficult to win the title,” said Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann.
“It was a deserved defeat today. Apart from the last 10 minutes, they were the better team,” he added.
Bayern sports director Hasan Salihamidzic criticized the performance devastatingly.
“We let ourselves be overwhelmed by a team that played during the week. That’s not what it means to be Bayern Munich,” he said.
Bayern survived an early chance from Jeremie Frimpong and then took the lead when Odilon Kossounou deflected a Joshua Kimmich shot into his own net.
The hosts continued to cause problems for Bayern and deservedly equalized in the 55th minute with a penalty.
Amine Adli was originally booked for diving after being cut off by Benjamin Pavard but the decision was reversed by VAR and Palacios converted from the spot.
The scene was repeated 20 minutes later when Adli was brought down in the penalty area by Dayot Upamecano.
He was cautioned again to dive and again Palacios smashed the ball into the bottom corner after VAR intervention.
“VAR was a lifesaver today and a perfect example of how the system should work,” said referee Tobias Stieler.
The win also kept Leverkusen afloat in the race for Europe, with Alonso’s side now just three points adrift of sixth place.
– Union recovers –
Elsewhere, Union Berlin gave their Champions League hopes a boost when a rare goal from Rani Khedira helped them to a 2-0 win over sixth-placed Bundesliga rivals Eintracht Frankfurt.
Khedira – the brother of 2014 world champion Sami – excelled in the opener, scoring just his seventh goal in 194 Bundesliga appearances and bringing Union back to third place.
“It’s also my first goal for Union so I’m very happy,” Khedira told Dazn. “Today it was much more about mentality than tactics.”
Both sides came into play after five runs without a win and were trying to recover after being kicked out of European competition mid-week.
Frankfurt had the lion’s share of chances in the first half, with both Randal Kolo Muani and Daichi Kamada getting close.
However, the hosts took the lead just after the break when Khedira steered the ball in from close range after Frankfurt failed to clear a corner.
Sheraldo Becker outplayed Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp again for Union in the 69th minute, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Trapp blushed when he let the ball through his legs again a few minutes later to double Kevin Behrens’ lead.
Union – unbeaten in 18 home league games – are now two points clear of Freiburg, who moved up to fourth after a 1-1 draw at Mainz.
Freiburg looked set for victory after a mistake by Mainz keeper Robin Zentner allowed Japan international Ritsu Doan to sneak in and score his second goal in two games.
But a late equalizer from Karim Onisiwo snatched them two points in added time.
Source : sports.yahoo.com