Germany striker Patrick Helmes scored twice as Bayer Leverkusen shocked Bundesliga leaders Hoffenheim 4-1 on Friday.
Both goals were executed with ruthless efficiency by Helmes as Hoffenheim were humbled at home for the first time at the Rhein-Neckar Arena, which opened last month.
“We knew that we had to put our opponents on the back foot,” Bayer coach Bruno Labbadia said. “We wanted to be the first team to beat Hoffenheim here and I am happy for the team that we achieved that.”
The league leaders are now in danger of losing their place at the top to Bayern Munich or Hertha Berlin. They lead by just a point from Bayern, with Bayer Leverkusen now up to fourth and just three points off the leaders.
“We made too many errors, which is not typical of us,” Hoffenheim coach Ralf Rangnick said. “We conceded two goals in the first 10 minutes. There were a few key passages of play for us, above all the goals just before and after halftime. It is crucial now to see how the team responds in our next game against Stuttgart.”
Bayer Leverkusen took the lead after Hoffenheim’s defense allowed Bayer’s Brazilian Renato Augusto to slide a cross into Helmes, who showed clinical finishing and buried his shot in the back of the net after three minutes.
Hoffenheim were 2-0 down just eight minutes later when a goal-mouth scramble saw Bayer Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes stab his shot home.
But the home side fought back, thanks to a helping hand from Bayer’s Germany goalkeeper Rene Adler.
Adler made a hash of his tackle on Senegal striker Demba Ba, earning himself a yellow card and conceding a penalty with half an hour gone.
Midfielder Sejad Salihovic made no mistake from the spot.
But Hoffenheim fell further behind just before the halftime whistle when Helmes again received a crisp pass in front of goal and made no mistake in beating former Germany goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand to make it 3-1 at the break.
Leverkusen made sure of the three points when ex-Germany defender Gonzalo Castro lobbed his header over Hildebrand after 48 minutes.