Donnerstag, 23. Mai 2024

A Hattrick with Heartbreak: Bayer 04 and the Final to Forget

Some football stories are hard to digest – and the Europa League final against Atalanta Bergamo definitely falls into that category. Bayer 04 Leverkusen, after an impressive streak of 51 unbeaten competitive matches, suffered a painful 0-3 defeat in the UEFA Europa League final.

The stage was grand: Dublin, a sold-out arena, 46,500 spectators, with 12,000 traveling from Leverkusen to support their team. The atmosphere was fantastic, the fans were optimistic, but the evening unfolded differently than hoped. Coach Xabi Alonso made several changes compared to the last Bundesliga game: Matej Kovar replaced Lukas Hradecky in goal, Josip Stanisic moved into defense for Odilon Kossounou, and Exequiel Palacios played instead of Robert Andrich in midfield. Piero Hincapie and Florian Wirtz also started, with Victor Boniface and Jonas Hofmann initially on the bench.

The match began aggressively, but early on, simple turnovers crept into Leverkusen's play. In the 12th minute came the first setback: Davide Zappacosta found Ademola Lookman with a low cross, who slotted in at the far post to make it 1-0. Less than twelve minutes later, it was Lookman again, curling the ball into the bottom right corner – 2-0 for Atalanta. Bayer 04 hardly created any notable chances, while the Italians defended attentively and allowed little.

In the second half, Alonso brought on Victor Boniface as a fresh striker, but this too failed to change the course of the game. Despite having 67 percent possession after an hour, Leverkusen lacked the final touch. Atalanta remained strong defensively and capitalized on another counterattack in the 75th minute, once again through Lookman, who completed his hat-trick and sealed the 3-0 final score.

The Werkself was defeated, and despite a final push, including a contentious scene in the penalty area, a consolation goal remained elusive. Referee István Kovács, even after VAR intervention, decided there was no foul.

For Leverkusen, this defeat is particularly painful after a season that started so promisingly and was dominated over long stretches. The record streak of 51 unbeaten matches is now ended, and the first loss of the season struck in the most crucial game.

However, the season is not over yet. In a few days, the next final is already on the horizon: In the DFB-Pokal, Bayer 04 will face 1. FC Kaiserslautern at the Berlin Olympiastadion. There remains the chance to crown the season with a national title and put the disappointment from Dublin behind them. The fans, who supported their team loudly despite the defeat in Dublin, will again give their all in Berlin to spur on their Werkself.

Let's go, Leverkusen – it's not over yet!

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