Leverkusen (dpa) – Bayer Leverkusen’s team was actually a personal patchwork quilt. Florian Wirtz was absent because of an exam, Kerem Demirbay because of a positive corona test, eight other colleagues were also absent for various reasons.
With Julian Baumgartlinger, the fifth captain led the team onto the field, the substitute played for the first time in eight years and in the end there were three U19 players on the field. But Bayer couldn’t stop all that. On the contrary: with a 4-0 (2-0) victory over Slavia Prague, Werkself secured the group victory and set a German goal record in the Europa League with 21 goals.
Last year, Bayer seemed on track to end the long wait for a title after 27 years. But eventually the air ran out. From the quarter finals of the Europa League, defeat in the cup final, only fifth in the league. This time the Rhinelander seems much more mature and determined. With a lot of confidence in your own strength. And especially with an almost inexhaustible reservoir of talent.
“We want to achieve great things this year,” said two-time goalscorer Leon Bailey (8/32). The Jamaican was one of the regulars to play against the Czech champions on Thursday – but only one half. He operated job sharing with Moussa Diaby, who scored the 3-0 (59th) and the 4-0 prepared by Karim Bellarabi (90th + 1). The two turned so strongly on the left offensive side that Slavia coach Jindrich Trpisovsky felt sorry for his right back Lukas Masopust. “He had to run so fast,” said the coach. “I think he will sleep a lot today.”
His Leverkusen colleague Peter Bosz was of course very satisfied. And did not want to blame the apparent victory on the perceived weakness of the opponent. “I think we can say that we have done well ourselves,” said the Dutchman.
And if this succeeds even under such conditions, there seem to be few limits for this team. In the Europa League, Leverkusen’s team shot themselves back in a favorite role with the best offensive of all 48 participants, in the cup they have house rights against Eintracht Frankfurt and in the league Bayer is currently second by one point behind FC Bayern Munich.
In any case, there were almost only happy faces on Thursday. Goalkeeper Niklas Lomb, who played his second eight years after his first professional game for Bayer, did not concede a goal and said: “It was great, I enjoyed it.” Or the three youngsters Emrehan Gedikli (17), Samed Onur and Cem Türkmen (both 18), who were on the field at the same time and received special praise from Bosz: “They all showed that they are great players.”
There was only one downer for Daley Sinkgraven. The left back helped in eighth place and made an excellent game, but got a fixed goal disallowed due to an alleged offside position. “That would have been my first European Cup goal,” said the 25-year-old. “That’s why I’m a little disappointed.”