Bayer Leverkusen and Club Brugge KV were forced to settle for a point each in their final UEFA Champions League (UCL) group match, as a 0-0 stalemate at the BayArena denied the Belgians top spot in Group B.
As a showdown with repercussions at each end of the group, both sides needed to be proactive in their approach. This became particularly important for the visitors as unbeknownst to them FC Porto, whose result they had to match to remain first, simultaneously raced into a healthy lead against Atlético Madrid, though in a relatively tame goalless first half they were second best to Leverkusen. The Germans have struggled under new boss Xabi Alonso with a run of five winless games, but would have gone ahead if not for Simon Mignolet’s sublime intervention to deny Moussa Diaby from a tight angle.
Not being able to punish teams has proved to be a disastrous habit of late for Die Werkself, with nine of the 14 goals they have conceded in their current barren spell coming after HT. Brugge sought to flip the game on its head upon the restart, and within 60 seconds Tajon Buchanan had hit the crossbar before Eduard Sobol’s rebound flashed wide across goal. This set the tone for a much more open final 45 minutes, yet it was still a mystery which end the opening goal would come.
The best opportunity to steal the points came the way of Patrik Schick, but he was unable to hit the back of the net in Europe for the first time this campaign, again down to the heroics of Mignolet, whose one-handed diving stop kept out a powerful header. Whilst his side had already confirmed their place in the Round of 16, his saves earnt an impressive fifth clean sheet of the Group Stage.
Ultimately though it wasn’t enough, as a winning goal was needed to see Brugge become the first Belgian side to finish top of a UCL group. The Blauw-Zwart will instead have to settle for second place, whilst a much happier Leverkusen finish off their UCL campaign in the knowledge that having bettered Atlético’s result, they will continue their continental journey in the UEFA Europa League upon the turn of the year.