NO GOAL! Amiri whips in a lovely free-kick from deep, and Baumgartlinger climbs highest to head in – but the whistle had already gone, on account of all the push ‘n shove in the area. No complaints from Leverkusen players, but it looked a little soft.
60 mins: Lucas Alario comes on for Leverkusen, replacing Sinkgraven. A centre-forward for a left-sided player, so presumably there will be some sort of tactical shuffle.
58 mins: This game needed that, and Leverkusen already look more relaxed. Wirtz gets involved, curling a shot just wide of the far post.
The joy of football: that an utterly mediocre game can suddenly produce a moment like that. Havertz played it forward to Bailey, who drew his man in and then backheeled the ball into space . From a tight angle, and with the keeper barrelling towards him, Havertz paused, then prodded the ball beyond Schwolow and into the net!
GOAL! Freiburg 0-1 Leverkusen (Havertz 54′)
Kai Havertz puts the visitors ahead with a lovely goal!
52 mins: But the second delivery is flicked on by Baumgartlinger to Aranguiz, who stoops to head the ball in but can’t get his effort on target!
51 mins: Sallai heads over, before Leverkusen break away and force a corner. The first is cleared at the near post …
48 mins: Freiburg start on the front foot, with Grifo almost playing Holer in behind. He timed his run well, but strike partner Pedersen was offside.
And we’re back. Strange first half: Leverkusen dominated, but are lucky not to be behind.
In a parallel universe, Slavisa Jokanovic was part of the Yugoslavia team that won Euro 92. He talks to Sid Lowe about what might have been:
Half time: Freiburg 0-0 Leverkusen
That was a bit like every cake I’ve ever tried to make. It has all the ingredients to be excellent but in truth, it’s been a bit of a mess.
WHAT A MISS! Freiburg have barely threatened, but they should have scored here. Leverkusen’s high line is exposed by Sallai’s through ball, and Lucas Holer is clean through on goal. But with only the keeper to beat, he sidefoots his effort wide!
40 mins: Bailey then tries to recover the loose ball with a crunching tackle, for which he’s lucky not to be booked.
39 mins: The visitors carve out their best chance, Bailey again involved, making a pocket of space with a neat turn but seeing his low cross to Havertz cut out.
37 mins: Bailey tries to swing another cross in, but it’s wildly overhit. Havertz is playing through the middle, with teenager Florian Wirtz struggling to make much of an impact on the right flank.
35 mins: Aranguiz launches another quick counter, from which Bailey tries to find Havertz with a low cross that’s turned safely behind.
34 mins: Havertz can’t get much social distance in the Freiburg area, and is penalised for using his hand to bring the ball down.
33 mins: Interesting bit of information from Paul Dempsey just then. Leverkusen’s German Cup semi-final opponents, Saarbrucken, have had their season cancelled, so they’ve gone back into training for a single game.
31 mins: It’s not really clicking for this rejigged Leverkusen side so far, even if they’ve bossed possession in a downtempo half-hour.
28 mins: Freiburg venture forward and immediately regret it as Leverkusen pinch the ball and race away on the counter. Leon Bailey has Lienhart on his heels but tries to take an extra touch, and the hosts scramble it away.
25 mins: Leverkusen corner, which Amiri swings in and Sven Bender heads wide – so wide, in fact, that Tah keeps it in and earns a throw-in.
It’s just occurred to me that this was my most recent MBM. The fact it happened less than three months ago is mind-melting:
20 mins: Leverkusen are pinging the ball around effectively in the Freiburg half, but can’t unlock the defence. Charles Aranguiz gets impatient and slices an ambitious shot over the bar.
17 mins: Jonathan Tah, getting a chance in defence tonight after Leverkusen’s collapse against Wolfsburg, muscles Holer off the ball.
15 mins: Havertz earns another corner, which Freiburg’s centre-backs deal with comfortably.
13 mins: Safer hands from Hradecky, who collects a cross under pressure. Freiburg’s game plan seems pretty direct, a sort of Black Forest Burnley.
10 mins: Wing-back Daley Sinkgraven motors forward, the ball eventually worked to Kai Havertz, who makes his first cameo, wriggling into space in the area and seeing his shot deflected behind.
7 mins: Vincenzo Grifo, Freiburg’s creative spark out wide, sees his snap-shot deflected behind. Two corners follow, neither of which are dealt with particularly well by Leverkusen keeper Lukas Hradecky.
5 mins: Leverkusen work it around the edge of the Freiburg area, before Baumgartlinger’s lofted diagonal ball fails to find anyone in the area.
2 mins: Freiburg are in their traditional red-and-black stripes, Leverkusen in a shimmering silver away number. Lucas Holer bustles forward for the hosts but is kept from causing any trouble.
Away we go. The lack of atmosphere, as ever, remains a bit weird. But what can you do, eh?
Germany’s top tier in the women’s game, the Frauen Bundesliga, kicked off today. League leaders Wolfsburg didn’t miss a beat, sticking four goals past Cologne in the first game back.
For more on why Germany got their act together but England didn’t (I know, I know), here’s Suzanne Wrack:
Freiburg (4-4-2): Schwolow; Kubler, Lienhart, Heintz, Gunter; Sallai, Koch, Hofler, Grifo; Holer, Petersen.
Subs: Flekken, Abrashi, Frantz, Gulde, Chang, Schlotterbeck, Schmid, Tempelmann, Waldschmidt.
Leverkusen (3-4-3): Hradecky; Tah, S Bender, Dragovic; Amiri, Baumgartlinger, Aranguiz, Sinkgraven; Wirtz, Havertz, Bailey.
Subs: Ozcan, Alario, Bellarabi, Demirbay, Diaby, Palacios, Paulinho, Tapsoba, Volland.
I’ve just finished watching Devs, a sci-fi series on iPlayer that lives up to its existential themes by being both very good and very bad at the same time. Tonight, I’ll be watching Bayer Leverkusen, the football equivalent of Devs.
Leverkusen returned from lockdown looking sharp, rising star Kai Havertz at the fore as they won at Bremen and Gladbach by an aggregate score of 7-2. The top four looked a formality; even a late surge for the title looked possible. Then in midweek, they lost 4-1 at home to Wolfsburg.
Under Peter Bosz, Leverkusen often look unplayable, and occasionally appear unmanageable. The coach can’t afford to bring the latter version to Freiburg, routine overachievers looking to improve their own mixed fortunes since the restart.
Kick-off is at 7.30pm BST, 8.30pm local, no matter which strand of the multiverse you call home.