Petah Tikva (dpa) – As a substitute he headed the decisive goal by just 1.78 meters, became Bayer Leverkusen’s savior and received special praise from coach Peter Bosz: Leon Bailey experienced the Werkself in 4-2 (2-2) de Europa League at Hapoel Be’er Sheva had a great night.

He visibly enjoyed the uplifting feeling. “Of course the two goals were nice for me,” said the 23-year-old. “But it was more important that we won.” The personal success was all the more positive as Bailey’s preparation for the season had been a real nightmare. After the birthday party of Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt was infected with the corona virus, the Jamaican had to go home in self-isolation. Those responsible for the club were said to be annoyed by his carelessness, with authorities holding him in Jamaica for about three and a half weeks instead of the planned two weeks, after the private plane failed to take off shortly before takeoff. In the end, Bailey came back the day before the start of the season with a huge shortage of training. A month after the start of the season, he had played 23 minutes of competitive play.

But Bailey worked hard, not just to get back in shape, but also for some convenience. “He’s getting better from match to match”, Bosz had said in recent days. In Israel, Bailey fared better. In the six league games since mid-October, he has now been involved in six goals. A shape that was reminiscent of the one Bailey once swept through the Bundesliga with in the fall of 2017 and has since dribbled onto the wish lists of many top European clubs. But because he is not only considered light-footed, but sometimes also frivolous, he kept getting in each other’s way.

Its new strength is also due to an extra option that Bosz discovered out of necessity. After Kevin Volland was sold to Monaco, Kai Havertz, who often replaced him, went to Chelsea and new striker Patrik Schick injured himself early on, Bailey being the coach’s first replacement option at the storm center. “I knew he was a very good header, even though he wasn’t very tall,” said Bosz: “And it’s nice that he is scoring goals now. It helps us a lot that he can also play a center forward.”

And so, after a “very bad rest”, Bosz resorted to this remedy with the Israeli cup winner. The regular replacement for Schick Lucas Alario was not involved in the game, the switch during the break set course for victory. And so the season that started so badly for him could turn out to be a good one for Bailey.

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