Calhanoglu breaks Leverkusen penalty curse


Berlin (AFP) – Hakan Calhanoglu finally broke Bayer Leverkusen’s penalty curse this season with the first of his two goals in Sunday’s 3-1 Bundesliga win at home to Hertha Berlin.

The Turkish international winger drilled home from the spot on 36 minutes to put his side 2-0 up — holding his nerve after Leverkusen had failed to convert all five spot-kicks they had been previously awarded this season.

Calhanoglu, who had a penalty saved in November’s 3-2 defeat to RB Leipzig, slotted home after a handball from Berlin defender Marvin Plattenhardt on a Julian Brandt cross.

“I am very relieved. I could feel a bit of pressure, but I know I can score penalties,” said the 22-year-old Calhanoglu, who scored his first double in the Bundesliga.

“We took our chances and everything fitted together today.”

Leverkusen took the lead in scrappy style at the BayArena when Turkey defender Omer Toprak stabbed home on 12 minutes after Javier Hernandez had failed to connect with his shot.

Calhanoglu’s penalty made it 2-0 before Berlin’s Swiss midfielder Valentin Stocker pulled a goal back just before the break when he fired home at the post from a corner and it finished 2-1 at the break.

Berlin’s USA international John Anthony Brooks then cleared Hernandez’s header off the line on 57 minutes, which means “Chicharito” has now gone 1,200 minutes without scoring for Leverkusen.

His last goal was in a 2-0 win over Dortmund on October 1.

At the other end, only a superb save from Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno denied Hertha striker Vedad Ibisevic from close range with 25 minutes to go.

Leverkusen put the result beyond doubt when Kevin Kampl was allowed to put in a cross unchallenged and left winger Calhanoglu crashed his shot home on 88 minutes for the three points.

The result lifts Leverkusen to eighth while Hertha finish the weekend dropping from third to fifth.

Leaders Bayern Munich maintained their three-point lead at the top of the table with a 2-1 win at Freiburg on Friday thanks to two Robert Lewandowski goals.

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