Leverkusen draw Genk, settle for second
Eren Derdiyok's late strike denied Genk their first win in UEFA Champions League Group E, but Bayer Leverkusen were forced to settle for qualifying for the last 16 as runners-up.
The German side were favourites to claim the victory they needed to guarantee top spot in the pool away to the group minnows, but found themselves battling to avoid defeat. Jelle Vossen opened the scoring for Genk on the half-hour and the home side fought hard to hang onto their lead before Derdiyok's continued probing finally paid off with a 79th-minute equaliser.
It had started promisingly for Leverkusen with Gonzalo Castro having a dangerous cross booted clear inside the opening 40 seconds, then Andre Schurrle forced Genk keeper Laszlo Koteles to parry his free-kick. Derdiyok was next to chance his luck from long range with a 30-yard free-kick which flashed over the bar, and in the 22nd minute the same player fired a shot from 18 yards which was comfortably saved.
The home fans at the Cristal Arena were willing their side to finish their campaign with a first win and they gave themselves a great chance on the half-hour when they scored the opener out of nothing. Burundi international Dugary Ndabashinze sent in a cross from the right wing which Vossen met in the box with a right-footed volley which flew past Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno into the bottom corner.
It was Genk's first chance of the match and they almost doubled their lead with their second two minutes later, Fabien Camus side-footing wide from six yards from an Anthony Limbombe cross. Suddenly Genk looked in complete control and they came even closer two minutes later when Jeroen Simaeys got his head on Daniel Tozser's far-post corner and forced Leno to tip over the bar.
The visitors recovered their poise and won a series of corners before the break, Derdiyok firing wide from 12 yards and Sidney Sam also forcing a good save out of Genk keeper Koteles.
Derdiyok missed with a clear header seven minutes into the second half and had an even better chance on the hour when he met Castro's free-kick into the box, but could only head over from six yards. Derdiyok was guilty of shooting wide again in the 67th minute, but he finally broke his duck 11 minutes from time when he was fed by Sam on the right side of the penalty area and smashed a low shot into the net.
Leverkusen predictably laid siege to the Genk goal in search of the winner they needed to finish as group winners, with Koteles saving well from Sam and Stefan Kiessling in quick succession. As the game opened up Thomas Buffel and Elyaniv Barda both forced saves out of Leverkusen keeper Leno, while at the other end Derdiyok blazed wide again from six yards.
Buffel had the last chance for the home side in stoppage time when his shot was superbly tipped round the post by Leno as the Belgians held on for a deserved point and Leverkusen had to settle for second spot following Chelsea's 3-0 win over Valencia.