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Sports

'Ghost goal' overshadows Bayer Leverkusen's defeat of Hoffenheim

The game featured an incorrect offside call and a penalty that wasn’t, but it was an even more controversial 'ghost goal' that marred Bayer Leverkusen’s 2-1 win over Hoffenheim, with Stefan Kiessling cast as villain.

Friday's match had all the makings of a classic, with both sides among the Bundesliga's most free-scoring teams. Instead, it will be remembered for 70th-minute header from Kiessling that only managed to find the back of the net via the side of it.

If it sounds confusing, it was - certainly for usually reliable Bavarian referee Felix Brych, whose decision to award the goal to Leverkusen was the biggest blunder in an already poor night of officiating.

Leverkusen had taken the lead in a more regular fashion when winger Sidney Sam latched on to Gonzalo Castro's pass, making Hoffenheim defender Niklas Süle look snail-like before shooting past Koen Casteels in the hosts' goal.

The goal was just one highlight in a busy first half, with Hoffenheim more than threatening against in-form Leverkusen. Indeed, they should have had an equalizer moments after Sam's seventh goal of the season, when Andreas Beck's cross was headed back across goal by Roberto Firmino for Kevin Volland to finish.

Markus Gisdol gestures during Hoffenheim's 2-1 loss to Leverkusen on October 18. Photo: dpa

Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol's men had plenty to rue in their loss to Leverkusen.

The linesman raised his flag, however, in what was to be the first of three major mistakes by the match officials.

Firmino, Volland and Anthony Modeste were a constant challenge for Leverkusen's defense to contain, and the latter went close with his header from another superb Beck ball six minutes in. Bernd Leno, however, was equal to the task.

The industrious Castro again showed his quality to beat two defenders before forcing a save from Casteels on the hour mark as the game continued its end-to-end tempo.

Kiessling's game-changer

Then came the game's defining moment. A Leverkusen corner was whipped onto the head of Kiessling, who immediately put his head in his hands after it struck the side netting.

His teammates, who could only see the ball in the back of the goal after it broke the side of the netting through on impact, were jubilant and rushed to congratulate him. Failing to see the ball had only crept in via a hole on the side netting, Brych duly awarded the goal.

The replays showed the truth, but by then it was too late. Despite being more hole than goal, Leverkusen were up 2-0.

The drama did not end there, however. As the clock ticked over to 80 minutes, Leverkusen right-back Roberto Hilbert executed a perfect tackle on Firmino on the edge of the area that Brych somehow adjudged to be illegal. Not only did Brych whistle for the foul, he also ruled that it took place just inside the box, meaning a penalty ensued.

Firmino took the spot kick, but Leno saved, with the ball hitting the right upright twice in the aftermath as Leverkusen attempted to clear and Hoffenheim tried in vain to force the ball home.

Scant consolation for Hoffenheim

The hosts did get a goal on 88 minutes through substitute Sven Schipplock's header, but they were unable to find another as Leverkusen claimed three controversial points.

Jeers rang out around the Rhein Neckar Arena at the final whistle, predominantly directed at the referees and Kiessling.

The latter, however, pleaded confusion: "At first glance I thought it had missed, but then everyone came rushing over," he told the television channel Sky after the match. "I hadn't seen the ball perfectly from my angle and so had no way of knowing either way."

Hoffenheim announced almost immediately after the game that an appeal would be lodged, with coach Markus Gisdol saying he was confident of a rematch.