Bayer Leverkusen’s dramatic late win over RB Leipzig hints at Bundesliga title race staying power

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Bayer Leverkusen fired off the strongest warning yet that they are potential Bundesliga title winning material with a 3-2 win away at RB Leipzig on Saturday. Xavi Simons and Lois Openda goals twice put the home side ahead at Red Bull Arena only for Nathan Tella and Jonathan Tah to peg them back for the visitors before Piero Hincapie’s late goal won it for Xabi Alonso’s men.

It has been almost 12 years since Bayern Munich last failed to win the German topflight crown when Borussia Dortmund last did it for their fifth title. Leverkusen have never done it and even famously went close a few times in the early 2000s only to lose out in heartbreaking fashion but Die Werkself look better equipped than ever to finally end that curse of being nearly men.

A DFB Pokal title back in 1993 remains the last major success North Rhine-Westphalia-based club but Alonso finally appears to have assembled a squad ready to dethrone dominant Bayern from their current domestic hegemony. The 2024 return to action has not brought any faltering so far and a narrow win away at Augsburg has now been followed by this impressive success in Leipzig.

Marco Rose’s side looked like they could be a challenge too strong for Leverkusen when they went ahead through Simons’ magnificent finish inside of seven minutes and then let Tella’s equalizer go to waste when Openda made it 2-1 after 10 second-half minutes. However, Alonso’s men found their joy through a pair of corners with Tah heading home before Hincapie stabbed in the winner.

“It was a very intense game, anything could have happened today,” said Alonso after the result in Leipzig which underlined his team’s character and title credentials. “We were delighted that we were able to score the third goal right at the end. The goal we conceded did not matter to me, I had the confidence that we could go and win it.”

Bayern take on Werder Bremen on Sunday with a seven-point deficit but two games in hand. Thomas Tuchel’s men will be wary of the fact that their title rivals are not showing signs of dropping off for now. Even if the German champions win both of those games — against Werder and Union Berlin — they can still only be within a point of Leverkusen.

This makes the situation incredibly tantalizing because the two meet at BayArena next month on Feb. 10 which could now turn into the game where the Bundesliga title is won and lost for both sides and the moment where Germany’s perennial chokers start to put that reputation to bed. There will be tougher games to come than Augsburg but Leipzig and Bayern are as hard as it gets domestically.

Alonso is already a wanted man by some of Europe’s biggest clubs but finally getting Leverkusen to win silverware is something that some of the biggest names have failed to do — even the legendary Jupp Heynckes was unable to end that drought during a two-year spell from 2009-11 which preceded two final flings with Bayern before retirement.

Should Leverkusen find themselves top still come mid-February then we really ought to consider them capable of finally getting a title tilt over the line. With DFB Pokal and UEFA Europa League latter stages to come too, there is the possibility of a glittering year for Die Schwartzroten as they target overdue success given some of their historic close calls with titles.

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