Nkunku lifts Leipzig to third with late comeback win over Bremen
RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku set up two late goals as his side came from behind to defeat Werder Bremen 2-1 at home on Sunday, lifting them to third.
With Bremen winning 1-0 thanks to a controversial goal from Leipzig-born Leonardo Bittencourt, Nkunku curled in a cross for captain Willi Orban to head in an equaliser with three minutes remaining, before setting up another for Dominik Szoboszlai in the sixth minute of injury time for a crucial win.
The win takes Leipzig one point clear of Union Berlin into third with two games remaining, ahead of next week's trip to league leaders Bayern Munich.
"It was a difficult win against a good Bremen team. We made some bad decisions but we were always in the game" said Leipzig manager Marco Rose, toasting his side's "deserved victory."
His Bremen counterpart Ole Werner said "Leipzig's quality off the bench was the difference", blaming his side's inability to play consistently over 90 minutes.
The victory soothed the complaints of the frustrated home side, who looked set for a controversial loss after a VAR decision.
Nkunku tapped in a Timo Werner cross midway through the second half, but VAR struck the goal off for a soft foul in the lead up against Bittencourt.
Just four minutes later, Bittencourt had the ball in the back of the net, completing a silky team move by slamming in a chipped Jens Stage cross.
With the clock winding down, Orban headed in the equaliser, his first league goal since October, latching onto a perfect cross from Nkunku.
The France forward, who remains the side's top scorer with 13 goals despite missing a third of their league matches this season, then cut the ball back for Szoboszlai to secure a vital three points for the home side.
- Stuttgart hold Leverkusen -
Earlier on Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen were held to a 1-1 draw at Stuttgart, just days before their second leg Europa League semi-final 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 end the round in seventh on goal difference, with sixth place qualifying for the Europa Conference League.
A "very satisfied" visiting manager Xabi Alonso said "the team showed the will to win until th end."
"We want to make sixth place, but first we can achieve another big goal on Thursday."
Leverkusen had strung together a 14-game unbeaten run under 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.