Soccer-Leaders Leverkusen held 1-1 at Stuttgart for second straight draw

Soccer Football - Bundesliga - VfB Stuttgart v Bayer Leverkusen - MHPArena, Stuttgart, Germany - December 10, 2023 Bayer Leverkusen's Jonathan Tah in action with VfB Stuttgart's Dan-Axel Zagadou REUTERS/Angelika Warmuth

STUTTGART, Germany (Reuters) -Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen stumbled to a 1-1 draw at third-placed VfB Stuttgart on Sunday for their second draw in a row but still increased their lead at the top to four points.

Xabi Alonso's team, the last unbeaten side in the Bundesliga this season, move up to 36 points, with second-placed Bayern Munich, who lost 5-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, on 32 with a game in hand. Stuttgart remained third on 31.

It was Leverkusen's 22nd consecutive game without defeat this season across all competitions.

In a high-tempo first half, Leverkusen hit the woodwork with Amine Adli in the ninth minute while Stuttgart also missed a golden opportunity with Serhou Guirassy in the 26th after coming close twice more in the opening minutes.

The hosts, who had a league record-equalling 11 shots on target in the first half, broke the deadlock five minutes before the break with Chris Fuehrich tapping in from close range.

"It was a very interesting game with two different halves," Alonso said. "In the first half we really felt the flow of Stuttgart. They played really well.

"We reacted after the break, we were calmer with the ball and carved out our chances. It's a fair result."

Leverkusen came out fighting after the break and did not have to wait long for an equaliser.

They levelled two minutes after the restart with Granit Xhaka sending Victor Boniface down the left and his cutback was volleyed in by Germany international Florian Wirtz.

Xhaka then almost turned goalscorer himself but his low drive bounced off the post in the 49th minute.

Both teams had their share of chances, with Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky and his Stuttgart counterpart Alexander Nuebel kept busy throughout and making several outstanding saves.

Stuttgart travel to Bayern Munich next weekend while Leverkusen host improving Eintracht Frankfurt.

The league stops on Dec. 20 for the winter break and resumes on Jan. 12.

(Reporting by Karolos GrohmannEditing by Christian Radnedge and Clare Fallon)

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