UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE Nigeria’s Victor Boniface propels Leverkusen past Qarabag

Nigeria international Victor Boniface scored a last-minute penalty to help Bayer 04 Leverkusen to a 1-0 victory against Qarabag at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium on Thursday night.

The Werkself were in total control of the fourth group match in the Europa League and are now certain of qualifying for the knockout rounds in the competition. The hard-fought match in the Azerbaijani capital Baku against a battling home side was decided by a penalty scored by Boniface in added time after the intervention of VAR.

Compared with the 3-2 win at Hoffenheim on Bundesliga matchday 10, coach Xabi Alonso made six changes to his starting XI: Matej Kovar replaced Lukas Hradecky in goal. Piero Hincapie, Josip Stanisic, Nathan Tella, Robert Andrich, and Amine Adli also came into the side on a noisy stage at the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium with the hosts looking to get on the front foot from the start.

As the game progressed, Leverkusen increasingly found their way into the opposition half and in the 11th minute, Alejandro Grimaldo raced down the left flank and saw Florian Wirtz in the middle, however, Andrey Lunev was able to intercept the final pass to frustrate the first noteworthy action of the game.

Just one minute later, the Azerbaijani side had a chance from the edge of the Werkself penalty area from Yassine Benzia but his effort went a yard wide of the target. There was a frenetic closing stage to the game with Boniface having a number of chances. The Super Eagle striker went very close with an impressive overhead kick in the 86th minute.

It looked like the game was going to end in a goalless draw – until the fourth minute of added time. A Grimaldo header hit the outstretched arm of Qarabag’s Maksim Medvedev and referee Craig Pawson awarded a penalty to Bayer 04 after viewing the video screen.

Boniface converted the penalty with a shot into the bottom right corner of the net. That secured the fourth win in the fourth group match – and set another record. The Werkself have won four European games in succession for the first time in the club’s history.

Dennis Mabuka

Dennis Mabuka is a seasoned Kenyan journalist with 18 years of experience covering sports events. He is currently a sport content creator with en.Africatopsports.com.

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