Leverkusen held by Stuttgart ahead of Europa clash

football14 May 2023 16:05| © AFP
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Sardar Azmoun (L) and Hiroki Ito © Getty Images

Bayer Leverkusen were held to a 1-1 draw at Stuttgart on Sunday, just days before their second leg Europa League semifinal clash with Roma.

Leverkusen narrowly lost the first leg in Rome 1-0 and will host Jose Mourinho's Roma, the Europa Conference League holders, on Thursday.

In Stuttgart, both sides traded penalties in the second half, home forward Serhou Guirassy opening the scoring before Argentinian World Cup winner Exequiel Palacious levelled.

Leverkusen had strung together a 14-game unbeaten run under manager Xabi Alonso, but have now lost two and drawn one of their past three.

After a goalless and risk averse first half, Stuttgart took the lead shortly into the second stanza, Guirassy gliding in an elegant Panenka style spotkick from the spot after Palacios fouled Wataru Endo in the box.

The visitors hit back quickly with a penalty of their own, Palacious making up for his earlier mistake to convert after goalie Fabian Bredlow collided with Edmond Tapsoba.

Stuttgart's Josha Vagnoman had a chance to put the home side back in the lead just a minute later, but he headed wide when presented with an empty net.

The draw leaves 2006 champions Stuttgart in the automatic relegation places, two points from safety with two matches remaining.

Leverkusen end the round in seventh on goal difference, with sixth place qualifying for the Europa Conference League.

In Sunday's late game, RB Leipzig can move past Union Berlin into third place with a win at home against Werder Bremen.

Leipzig have qualified for the Champions League in five of their six seasons in the top division but face a tricky away trip to league leaders Bayern Munich on Saturday.