Roger Schmidt's team went to Borussia Dortmund in good spirits following their emphatic midweek win in the Champions League, but return home with another heavy loss against Thomas Tuchel's rampant side.
Schmidt made a bold choice with his tactics going into the game, picking both Javier Hernandez for his first league start and Stefan Kießling in attack, with Karim Bellarabi and Hakan Calhanoglu supporting from wide positions.
Despite looking lively at times, Leverkusen never threatened a goal for the opening twenty minutes, and it was thanks to Bernd Leno that the hosts didn't score earlier than they did. The goalkeeper made an excellent save to deny Henrik Mkhitaryan, and then denied Jonas Hofman, before committing football suicide to gift Dortmund the lead. Mkhitaryan launched a brilliant lofted pass behind the Leverkusen defence, and Hofman chased it down. Leno raced off his line in order to clear, but completely missed the ball, leaving Hofman the rather simple task of putting ball into net, which he accomplished comfortably.
Just minutes later, it should have been all square. Javier Hernandez was sent clear, but totally fluffed his lines, doing little more than knocking the ball past Dortmund keeper Roman Bürki. It couldn't even be counted as a shot. Former Dortmund man Kevin Kampl did better with his first half opportunity, thumping a powerful shot that unfortunately was straight at Bürki.
Roger was obviously unhappy with things, and made a bold double substitution during the interval. On came Julian Brandt and Admir Mehmedi, out went Kießling and Christoph Kramer. However, it was the home side who threatened first, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got through but was denied by Leno.
The game's big controversy occurred in the Dortmund box seven minutes into the second half. Hernandez was found by a great pass by Mehmedi, but as Bürki came out to meet him, Marcel Schmelzer pushed the Mexican striker in the back as he was about to shoot. It was as clear a penalty and red card as you could ever wish to see, but referee Deniz Ayetekin must have blinked at an inopportune moment and missed the blatant foul, rather than seeing the whole thing and bottling the game's defining decision.
The incident proved to be the turning point. Instead of being down to ten men and potentially 1-1, BVB doubled their lead through a soft goal from Shinji Kagawa. It was a lovely move that led to the Japanese international scoring, but his shot carried no pace at all, and it probably only beat Leno because it was hit before he could properly set himself.
The icing was added to the Dortmund cake from the penalty spot. Mathias Ginter was hauled down by Wendell, and Aubameyang – probably my favourite non-Leverkusen player in Bundesliga – slammed home an emphatic spotkick.
The loss is Leverkusen's third in a row, a run which has seen the team fail to score. The game's keep coming, as Wednesday night sees Mainz 05 arrive at BayArena in good form. Make no mistake, this will be another stern test for Schmidt's young team.