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Bayer Leverkusen 2 CSKA Moscow 2: Hosts blow early lead

CSKA Moscow fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Bayer Leverkusen in their Champions League Group E opener, avoiding defeat in Germany for the first time.

Leverkusen had been cruising after scoring twice in the first 15 minutes through Admir Mehmedi and Hakan Calhanoglu as CSKA struggled to keep pace.

But after Igor Akinfeev had made a vital save from Mehmedi, the visitors countered with two strikes in the space of 123 seconds.

Alan Dzagoev’s wonderful effort gave the Russian side hope before Roman Eremenko squeezed a finish through Bernd Leno to draw the visitors level before half-time and stun a previously jubilant Leverkusen crowd.

The hosts are now unbeaten in eight European home matches, but paid for their profligacy and saw captain Lars Bender withdrawn through injury in a further blow.

While CSKA have conceded just once in the Russian Premier League this season, it was a ruthlessness in attack that bailed them out in this clash as they recovered from the hosts’ lightning start.

Leverkusen had taken control of the game from the off and opened the scoring with their first real attack in the ninth minute.
 
While a deflection off Calhanoglu from a deep Benjamin Henrichs pass fooled the away defence, Mehmedi was alert to beat the offside trap and bring the ball under control before bundling a finish beyond Akinfeev.
 
Six minutes later, CSKA bowed to their opponents’ pressing when Kevin Kampl took possession to thread a pass through to Calhanoglu, whose strike clipped Vasili Berezutski as it flew into the top corner.
 
The visitors were being completely overrun, with Julian Brandt and Wendell both firing straight at Akinfeev.
 
Leverkusen were repeatedly punishing a disastrous defensive line as Akinfeev made a double-save from Mehmedi, but CSKA quickly countered with a stunning goal.
 
Dzagoev, returning from injury, took Aleksey Ionov’s pass, dashed past the helpless Jonathan Tah and beat Leno to the ball with a rising finish.
 
Worse was to come for the home side, with Eremenko rifling through the goalkeeper’s legs from Lacina Traore’s cute pass as the visitors celebrated an unlikely equaliser.

Joel Pohjanpalo, who had netted four in his first two games for Leverkusen despite playing for just 40 minutes, was introduced in place of Javier Hernandez at half-time, but it was Brandt who screwed wide just seconds after the restart.

Bender was then withdrawn with an apparent hamstring injury, but his side continued to pile on the pressure as Pohjanpalo was squeezed off the ball and Kevin Volland curled tamely towards Akinfeev.

And frustration with referee Daniele Orsato grew as he turned away appeals for a Mario Fernandes handball and a foul on Pohjanpalo by Sergei Ignashevich, while Leno saved from Aleksandr Golovin.

Leverkusen’s momentum ultimately slowed as they were unable to repeat their incredible first-half start, with CSKA holding on for a surprise point.

Wed 14 Sep, 2016
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