Bayer Leverkusen’s late escapes are keeping Xabi Alonso’s team unbeaten this season

BERLIN (AP) — Just call him Xabi Houdini. Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso has seen his team pull off several scarcely believable escapes from defeat this season as it remains unbeaten across all competitions.

Leverkusen, which has already secured the Bundesliga title, is on a 46-game run without a loss – a record across Europe’s “big five” leagues.

It has been achieved in extraordinary fashion.

Robert Andrich scored with the last kick of the game for a 2-2 draw with high-flying Stuttgart on Saturday. The goal came in the sixth minute of stoppage time when there was only supposed to be five.

Stuttgart had won seven of its nine games since losing to Leverkusen in the German Cup and led 2-0 against Leverkusen, but even that wasn’t enough of a cushion to prevent Alonso’s team from coming back and extending its unbeaten record.

The previous weekend, Josip Stanišić scored in the seventh minute of stoppage time for a 1-1 draw at Borussia Dortmund. And in Leverkusen’s previous game, Amine Adli scored in the 90th minute for a 1-1 draw at West Ham in the Europa League.

In all, Leverkusen has eight draws this season to go with 38 wins.

“We’ve scored so many goals in stoppage time this year,” Adli said after the latest drama on Saturday. “But we should score earlier. It would be better for us.”

Andrich’s equalizer against Stuttgart was the 16th goal that Leverkusen has scored in the 90th minute or later across all competitions this season, and the 21st that was scored from the 86th.

“It’s not easy to explain what we did again after last week – again in the last minute,” Alonso said. “There’s no explanation why it happens so often, but it’s good for us.”

Those late goals helped Leverkusen clinch the Bundesliga title ahead of 11-time defending champion Bayern Munich with five rounds to spare.

“We’ve already reached our main target – to be champions – but we want to keep going, we don’t want to stop. There are still three games (in the Bundesliga). We want to stay unbeaten for the rest of the season,” Alonso said.

Leverkusen’s next game is against Roma in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal on Thursday. The teams met at the same stage last season, when José Mourinho’s team eliminated Alonso’s thanks to a 1-0 win in Rome. They drew the second leg 0-0 in Leverkusen.

“From the first Europa League game against (Swedish team) Häcken, we spoke about our experience in Rome and now we’re back in the same situation, semifinal vs. Roma,” Alonso said. “So yeah, hopefully we can use this experience well.”


AP soccer:

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