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Sports

Mönchengladbach remain all at sea after Bayer Leverkusen snatch Bundesliga win

Borussia Mönchengladbach's horror start to 2014 has continued at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen. The Foals were sunk 1-0 by a Heung-Min Son scorcher, and remain rudderless in the new year.

Something had to give going into the match. Mönchengladbach had never lost three consecutive games on the back of the winter break, but they had also not beaten Leverkusen at home in 21 attempts.

The importance of a result on Friday was more than just upsetting history, of course.

Mönchengladbach's poor start to 2014 had undermined their Champions League ambitions, and a win over Leverkusen would have both bolstered the Foals' chances and hurt those of a rival.

Third on the table not so long ago, Mönchengladbach slipped to fifth after last Saturday's poor loss to Hannover. Even that place is under threat now, from chasing Wolfsburg and Mainz, after Friday's loss. Leverkusen, meanwhile, strengthen their place in second and continue to hold off Borussia Dortmund.

The hosts huffed and puffed, but could simply not blow past Leverkusen's superb defense, with Omer Toprak and Emir Spahic barely putting a toenail out of place. Patrick Herrmann, with his technically sound 18th-minute volley, and Max Kruse, courtesy of his powerful deflected effort 13 minutes later, threatened to brighten a rather dour first half. Both attackers have been decidedly down on form since the winter break ended, and might have scored from the exact same opportunities in 2013.

But frustrating it remained for Mönchengladbach against a visiting side happy to rely on their strength at the back and a handful of counter attacks.

Mönchengladbach's mini-slump has been marked by periods of games in which they have dominated with little reward. It was after one such period in the second half when Leverkusen struck. Having defended stoutly, Leverkusen then broke quickly and a lateral ball from Sidney Sam found fellow winger Son a few yards from the edge of the area.

Inexplicably, Martin Stranzl and Tony Jantschke backed off the South Korean, and he needed little more invitation to set himself and then send a wonderful right-foot effort past Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the goalkeeper's left-hand corner.

Frustrations mount

The rest of the game was a series of near-misses and half-chances for Mönchengladbach, with the same result every time.

Juan Arango shot straight at Bernd Leno on 79 minutes, and the shot-stopper's fisted clearance, which was straight back into a crowd of players, was somehow cleared.

Fellow attacker Raffael summed up the hosts' night when he slipped on the edge of the area just as he warmed to shoot, but given his own start to 2014 - and that of his side - he would have missed anyway.

Their precise attacking play has appeared to desert Mönchengladbach after the winter break, and they must arrest that if their Champions League chances are not to do so as well.