Kai Havertz was at the double again as Bayer Leverkusen won a crucial showdown with Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1 to move up to third in the Bundesliga.
All eyes were on one of Europe’s hottest properties Havertz after his double on the return to Bundesliga action last weekend, and it did not take the youngster long to impress the watching scouts at Borussia Park, slotting home in just the seventh minute to give his side the lead.
In an action-packed second half, another in-form young striker, Marcus Thuram, equalised in the 52nd minute for the home side, before Havertz slotted home from the penalty spot, his 11th goal in 15 games for Leverkusen, six minutes later to restore Leverkusen's advantage. VAR had stepped in to award the visitors the penalty.
Sven Bender's late header made sure of a fifth win in a row for Leverkusen, who, temporarily at least, go third in the table, ahead of Gladbach.
There were 13,000 cardboard cutouts of fans in the stadium.
Image credit: Eurosport
Right from the off, Leverkusen dominated and had the lead early on after Havertz latched onto a lovely throughpass from Karim Bellarabi before slotting home his 13th of the season.
Gladbach offered next to nothing in attack, and should have been two goals behind late in the first half, after Havertz had hit the crossbar, Kerem Demirbay could not find the net from two yards, with the goal at his mercy – Nico Elvedi with the fine clearance.
The major drama was saved for second half, as Thuram pounced to finish brilliantly after being picked out by Alassane Plea for his 12th of the season, before VAR, again, took centre stage.
Alassane Pleah and Kerem Demirbay battle for the ball
Image credit: Getty Images
Bellarabi picked up a perfect pass from Havertz, shot wide, but the VAR stepped in to check for a foul by Elvedi after Bellarabi had taken the shot. Following a trip to go for a second look at the pitchside screen - are you watching Premier League - the referee pointed to the spot. Havertz stepped up to score his eighth league goal of 2020 from the spot - only Erling Haaland has more in that time.
Bender's header made sure of the three points for Leverkusen, who have stormed back to life after the enforced coronavirus break, and look a good bet to seal Champions League qualification for next season.
Is Havertz destined for greatness? At the age of 20, and not a recognised striker, Kai Havertz's goal record is quite something. That is now four goals in a week, and eighth league goal this year. He now has the joint most Bundesliga goals before hitting 21 in the history of the league. He is tall, powerful and skilful - no wonder Europe's top clubs are clambering over themselves to snap up this talent.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Kai Havertz. Who else? The finish in the first half was so composed for someone so young, but his movement and slick passing made him a nightmare for Gladbach defenders all game. Even on a hat trick, he picked out a team-mate in a better position. He is on fire at the moment.
7’ - GOOOOOAAAALLLL!!! Gladbach 0-1 Leverkusen. It had to be him, right? Kai Havertz slots home to give the visitors the lead. Thirteen goals for the season for the 20-year-old, who showed great composure to collect the throughpass before calmly finding the net. The watching scouts will be mightily impressed. Lovely pass from Karim Bellarabi to pick Havertz out.
41’ - DOUBLE SAVE! Lukas Hradecky gets down smartly to keep out a drilled Neuhaus effort from the edge of the area, and reacts quickest to block Rami Bensebaini on the rebound with his legs. Much, much better from the hosts.
45’ - CROSSBAR AND OFF THE LINE! Incredible scenes! Firstly, Havertz hooks the ball onto the crossbar, the ball drops down for Demirbay, literally two yards out, with an open goal, he prods for goal, but somehow Nico Elvedi sticks out a leg and blocks on the line and clears! How important will that be!
52’ - GOOOAAALL!!! Gladbach 1-1 Leverkusen. Cometh the hour, cometh Marcus Thuram! Great equaliser. Another rising star in world football - Thuram - gets his 12th of the season after collecting a pass from Plea. Super, super goal. Which way will this swing now?
55’ - DRAMA! Great pass from Havertz to feed Bellarbi down the right, he gets the shot away across the face of goal, but the referee is having a look at this for a potential foul after the shot by Elvani. VAR! VAR!
57’ - PENALTY! After a long, long delay, and a trip to the monitor to have another look - are you watching, Premier League? - the referee points to the spot.
58’ - GGGOAAALLL!!!! Gladbach 1-2 Leverkusen. That man Havertz steps up to just beat the despairing dive of Sommer, who got a hand to it, but could not keep it out.
64’ - CHANCE! Superb back heel from Thuram into the path of Neuhaus, but his first touch is poor, allowing Hradecky to race from his line to smother at the feet of Neuhaus.
76’ - MISS! What a chance for Demirbay to make it 3-1. Great play from Diaby to beat two men before forcing a fine block from Sommer, Demirbay is first to react, the goal is empty, but he blazes over from eight yards.
82’ - GOOOOAAALLL!!! Gladbach 1-3 Leverkusen. Game over? Bender climbs highest to head home Leverkusen's third. Great cross from Demirbay right onto the head of Bender. Gladbach look beaten now.
85’ - MISS! Free header for Plea, eight yards out, but he glances the header just wide. Could have ensured a frantic finish.
Kai Havertz is now Bayer Leverkusen’s joint top scorer in the Bundesliga this season with 9 goals. He could become his side’s top scorer in consecutive league seasons.
Kavertz has been directly involved in 17 goals for Bayer Leverkusen in all competitions in 2020 (10 goals, 7 assists); two more than any other player in the Bundesliga in this calendar year.
Since the Bundesliga returned on May 16th, the home teams have won 14.3% of games (2/14). Before then they had won 43.3% (97/224).