Leverkusen slips past Sociedad on late winner

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Leverkusen slips past Sociedad on late winner

LEVERKUSEN - An unstoppable last gasp free kick from substitute Jens Hegeler gave Bayer Leverkusen a 2-1 victory over Real Sociedad in the Champions League for their first Group A win on Wednesday.

Hegeler sailed his free kick into the top corner deep in added time to earn the winner on his Champions League debut and lift Leverkusen to third in the group on three points.

Leverkusen, which lost its opening game, 4-2, at Manchester United, had taken a lead on the stroke of halftime with captain Simon Rolfes sliding in after seeing his powerful header saved.

The Spaniards, in the competition for the first time after a decade, leveled early in the second half with Mexican Carlos Vela scoring on the rebound after keeper Bernd Leno saved his 52nd minute penalty.

“We had a very good game in the first 20 minutes and were unlucky not to have scored then,” Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller said.

“To win in the last minute against such a tough team is fantastic. We are still in the running.”

The Germans, who won all home games in their previous two Champions League group stage appearances in 2004 and 2011, are one point behind Manchester United and Shakhtar Donetsk after they drew, 1-1, in Ukraine.

“I think this is my first goal from a free kick in a competitive game,” the 25-year-old Hegeler, who had come on five minutes from time, said.

“It is a fantastic feeling. There were not that many free kick takers left in the game and I had scored one just like that in a friendly about three weeks ago so I said to myself ‘do it again.’?”

Real Sociedad, which lost its opener, 2-0, against Shakhtar, are in last place with no points.

“We played a great game, but the last kick of the match was a major blow,” said Real coach Jagoba Arrasate.

“We have done many things right in the first two match days but are still on zero points. It seems unfair, but this is the Champions League.”

Germany coach Joachim Loew was in the stands to watch Stefan Kiessling, with his starting strikers Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez injured ahead of World Cup qualifiers this month, and the hosts, third in the Bundesliga, enjoyed a strong start.

Kiessling and South Korea’s Son Heung-min repeatedly tried to catch the slower Spaniards on the break as a hard-working Leverkusen defense quickly stifled any potential threat.

Rolfes almost grabbed a 20th minute lead but keeper Claudio Bravo did well to palm his deflected shot wide.

Chile’s Bravo again came to the rescue three minutes later, stretching to turn a Sidney Sam effort wide as the Germans kept on the offensive.

It took more than half an hour for Real to balance the scales with Leverkusen’s Leno twice denying their long-range efforts.


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