BERLIN – Bayer Leverkusen climbed to fourth in the Bundesliga and ended VfB Stuttgart’s unbeaten home record with a 2-0 victory on Friday.
Leverkusen’s 18-year-old midfielder Kai Havertz struck in the 20th minute after Leon Bailey got past Benjamin Parvard on the left to send in a low cross.
The visitors survived a period of second-half pressure before Lars Bender headed in a corner 10 minutes from time.
Leverkusen could thank keeper Bernd Leno for a series of saves to thwart Stuttgart after the break.
The Germany keeper brilliantly dived to get his fingers to a half-volley from Emiliano Insua, kept out a Berkay Oezcan effort and was again down quickly to save another Insua half-volley.
Stuttgart were fortunate to see Santiago Ascacibor shown only a yellow card after a late tackle on Julian Brandt, which led to a fracas involving several players near the touchline.
Brandt was uninjured but was substituted shortly afterwards, and coach Heiko Herrlich was later sent to the stands for showing his frustration by throwing a plastic bottle to the ground.
Stuttgart keeper Ron-Robert Zieler managed to deflect a shot by substitute Benjamin Henrichs on to the post as Leverkusen freed themselves from the home side’s pressure.
The visitors then put the result beyond doubt when Bender headed in Bailey’s corner, and could have had a third when Dominik Kohr put the ball just wide in front of goal.
“It was a good result, considering only Augsburg had got a point here this season with a goalless draw and Stuttgart had only conceded two goals,” Herrlich told Eurosport.
“After going ahead, we gave the ball away too easily and the opponents got back in the game. We switched to four at the back with a 4-1-4-1, and got a grip on the game again.”
Herrlich felt the studs-up foul on Brandt was a red-card offence, with the challenge compared to a similar incident last week when Leverkusen defender Wendell was sent off and banned for four games – one suspended – for a foul on Borussia Dortmund’s Gonzalo Castro.
Leverkusen have now gone 10 Bundesliga games without a defeat, a run of form which moves them to 24 points, eight behind leaders Bayern Munich.
They are level on points with Borussia Moenchengladbach and one behind Schalke, who play each other on Saturday. Bayern are meanwhile at Eintracht Frankfurt.
It was a first home defeat in 2017 for promoted Stuttgart, whose last home defeat was almost a year ago against Hanover in the second division.
Hannes Wolf’s side stay in the bottom half of the table with 17 points, and have now gone 13 games without a victory over Leverkusen.