Thanks to Jonathan Tah, Bayer Leverkusen is well on its way to its first cup win in 31 years and is clearly ready for the Bundesliga hit against FC Bayern Munich. Thanks to the national defender's header goal in the last minute, the league leaders prevailed 3-2 (0-1) in the exciting quarter-finals of the DFB Cup against league third-placed VfB Stuttgart 3-2 (0-1) and put on a successful dress rehearsal for the top game on Saturday there. In addition, coach Xabi Alonso's team remained unbeaten in their 30th competitive game of the season. No German club had ever had a longer series right from the start. Robert Andrich (49') and Amine Adli (66') had previously equalized VfB's two-time lead by captain Waldemar Anton (11') and Chris Führich (57'), before Tah made Leverkusen's tenth entry into the semi-finals perfect. Bayer is now the clear favorite for the title there, as they are 13th in the table. Borussia Mönchengladbach will at best have another first division team there.
Bayer have been in the final four times so far, and after their only title in 1993, they lost three finals. The Rhinelanders can also dream of a double; the direct duel with Bayern will have a signal effect in the league. Stuttgart, who were almost relegated in the last two years, have to concentrate on their targeted qualification for the Champions League. They once again impressively demonstrated on Tuesday that they have what it takes.
The two surprise teams from the Bundesliga season so far had anything but cheated their way into the cup quarter-finals. Bayer had the best offensive with 16 goals in three games with ten different goalscorers before the quarter-finals, Stuttgart was the only club to keep a clean sheet and had, among other things, knocked out runner-up Borussia Dortmund. However, the hope that striker Serhou Guirassy would return was not fulfilled. The Guinean, who scored 19 goals in 16 competitive games for VfB this season, had returned from the Africa Cup of Nations but was missing due to a gastrointestinal illness.
The game was intense from the start. After a corner from Angelo Stiller, Anton beat Edmond Tapsoba early on and headed over Bayer's Cup goalkeeper Matej Kovar into the goal. Leverkusen now increased the number of hits, but VfB continued to not back up and instead pressed high. This is how the great chance to make it 0-2 arose when Deniz Undav intercepted a ball from Kovar 20 meters in front of the goal and fed it to Atakan Karazor, who finished far too harmlessly (24th).
Bayer only had chances late against the guests' attentive and physically strong defense. And when the hosts supposedly equalized in the 40th minute after a very strong move, shooter Patrik Schick was offside. Bayer had opportunities until the break, but Alexander Nübel held well against Alejandro Grimaldo (40') and Schick (42'). The VfB lead at the break was not undeserved, as no opponent like the Swabians had challenged Leverkusen in their own arena this season.
After the break, Leverkusen turned things up even more. First Nübel held well against Schick (47'), then Andrich flicked the ball into the corner. But VfB remained courageous, won another ball from Kovar through good pressing and Führich finished ice-cold. Now the game became even more high-class, even more dramatic, a real cup fight, and Adli, who had been substituted less than three minutes earlier, equalized. But things got even better for Bayer when Tah was there with a header.