BERLIN: A depleted Bayer Leverkusen were held 0-0 by struggling Hertha Berlin on Sunday as they climbed above Borussia Dortmund to go third in the Bundesliga.

Missing nine players due to injury and illness, Leverkusen had four outfield players on the bench — three defenders and a 17-year-old forward — along with two goalkeepers. Nine substitutes can be named.

Coach Peter Bosz made only one of the five changes allowed during the game, and said that the lack of depth on the bench hurt Leverkusen’s attempts to score a late winner.

“There wasn’t much left in there,” Bosz said. “We tried and I can’t criticise the lads for that. We fought until the end to turn the game around.”

That didn’t stop Leverkusen dominating possession and recording 14 shots to Hertha’s five, but there were few clear scoring chances for either team. Both Hertha and Leverkusen pressed and marked well to keep the forwards largely quiet.

Hertha’s Dodi Lukebakio forced a save from Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky early on, and Leverkusen midfielder Kerem Demirbay was a sporadic threat with his long-range shooting. Leverkusen captain Lars Bender came closest when he headed wide at a free kick in added time.

Leverkusen kept their unbeaten record in the Bundesliga and overtook Borussia Dortmund who lost 2-1 to Cologne on Saturday but Bosz’s team missed an opportunity to go second and within a point of leaders Bayern Munich.

Hertha sit 13th and are four points above the automatic relegation spots. It’s another disappointing campaign so far for a club which has spent heavily in recent years with ambitions of becoming a power in both Bundesliga and European competitions.

Leverkusen’s top scorer Lucas Alario was out with a knee problem, putting more pressure on Patrik Schick to perform in the striker role and adding to an already troublesome injury list. Winger Karim Bellarabi had a thigh problem and attacking midfielder Nadiem Amiri is ill, while midfielders Exequiel Palacios and Charles Arnguiz have each missed several games.

Relegation-threatened Mainz earned another valuable point in a 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim and could have taken a second straight win but for Jean-Philippe Mateta hitting the post in the 75th minute.

Robin Quaison gave Mainz the lead with a goal in the 33rd but Ihlas Bebou levelled for Hoffenheim with his first league goal of the season off Ryan Sessegnon’s cross in the 62nd. Hoffenheim finished with 10 men when Dennis Geiger was red-carded for a wayward sliding tackle. Hoffenheim stay 12th and Mainz are 16th.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2020

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