Bayer Leverkusen advanced into the round of 32 after beating Zurich on Tin Jedvaj’s sole goal in the 4th round in Europa League’s group stage.
Both sides needed some time to gain a foothold into the game but as the match progressed hosts Leverkusen gained more and more control on home soil. Nevertheless, goal-scoring opportunities remained a rare occurrence in the opening period, reports Xinhua.
The spectators at BayArena had to wait until the half-hour mark before Dominik Kohr reaped the first chance of the match after unleashing a dangerous low shot from outside the box.
Leverkusen had another promising chance before the break but Lucas Alario failed to overcome Zurich goalkeeper Yanick Brecher following a one-on-one from a sharp angle in the 44th minute.
After the restart, Heiko Herrlich’s men started where they left off as Julian Brandt came close with two long-range efforts.
The host’s efforts eventually paid off with 60 minutes played when Julian Brandt’s delivery into the box allowed Tin Jedvaj to head home the opener at the near post.
Moments later, Zurich almost restored parity out of the blue but Kevin Ruegg squandered a good chance with all time and space from inside the box and only goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky to beat.
Leverkusen remained unimpressed and continued on the front foot but neither Leon Bailey nor Paulinho was able to put the result beyond doubt ahead of time.
However, Zurich lacked in penetration but will progress into the next round as well despite the defeat on the road.
With the result, Bayer Leverkusen sits atop the standings with 9 points and a better goal difference compared to second-placed Zurich. Ludogrets and Larnaca secured only two points from four games and won’t make it into the next round.
“It is a very important victory for us as we wanted to keep a clean sheet after conceding too many goals in the past games. We stayed focused until the final whistle,” Leverkusen’s defensive midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger said.