Europa League: Self-critical Alonso: “We’ll learn a lot. Especially me”

They were the invincibles, on the verge of a perfect season and a treble. But then Bayer Leverkusen suffered a bitter defeat in the Europa League final. But nothing was sugarcoated.

Despite having had no practice at all, the champions of Bayer Leverkusen were surprisingly good losers. And coach Xabi Alonso also led the way in self-criticism. “We all didn’t give our best performance. Everyone, including me,” said the Spaniard after the 0:3 (0:2) against Atalanta Bergamo, the first competitive defeat of the season at an inopportune time in the Europa League final: ” We will learn a lot from this defeat. First and foremost, me.”

69 hours before the start of the DFB Cup final against 1. FC Kaiserslautern in Berlin on Saturday, there was pure disillusionment among those who had previously been invincible. When honoring their opponents, many stared blankly into the Dublin night sky. Some people had won the silver medal. There was silence in the cabin afterwards. “Today was just a shitty day,” said national player Robert Andrich.

Nevertheless, the German football champions showed fair gestures, praise and applause for their opponents, as well as self-criticism instead of excuses or conspiracy theories. And it was an almost exaggerated self-castigation by the former world champion, European champion and current championship maker Alonso.

Special final tactics

But you also had to realize: If the coach always had the arguments on his side after all his moves in this historically wonderful season, his tactics had to at least be questioned. The measures to leave the aggressive national player Robert Andrich on the bench in the center for almost 70 minutes and to start the attack without a real target player were not successful.

“Unfortunately, our plan didn’t work,” said Alonso after the defeat in front of the eyes of all of football Europe. On RTL alone, 7.82 million people watched, which meant a market share of an impressive 32.4 percent.

Consolation came not only from the fans, who, according to captain Lukas Hradecky, created a “sea of ​​red” in Dublin and celebrated the team after the final whistle, but also from the highest circles of German football.

“This result does not change the fact that Bayer Leverkusen has written a great history and impressed Germany and Europe,” said DFB director Rudi Völler, who worked as a player and official at Bayer for almost 25 years: “Players, coaches and the team have football -Made Germany proud, with inspiring football, modest demeanor and a special spirit, Bayer has won an incredible amount of sympathy and fans.” DFB President Bernd Neuendorf said that Leverkusen had “presented German football outstandingly and inspired the whole of Europe.”

Xhaka’s second bitter defeat in the final

All of that was little consolation, of course. “It wasn’t our day, it wasn’t our game. The clearly better team won,” said Granit Xhaka, who suffered his second bitter defeat in the Europa League final with Arsenal after a 4-1 defeat against Chelsea five years ago. “That just wasn’t Bayer-like,” said Jonas Hofmann, the unused national player: “It felt like a bit of everything was missing from the start. We lost our courage.”

After going into the dressing room, sporting director Simon Rolfes reported that “everyone knew that it would not have been justified if we had won today. Our opponents were superior to us in many areas, and we were runners-up in almost all situations on the pitch.” These are clear words from a team that made German football history four days earlier and, according to Frankfurt’s board spokesman Axel Hellmann, played “a season of the century.”

But they would have gladly traded their historic Bundesliga record for this bitter final defeat in Leverkusen. “It was clear to all of us that the series would have to end at some point,” said Hofmann: “But if we could swap, we would have preferred to lose another game in the Bundesliga.”

Impressive series ends

At the weekend in Leverkusen they celebrated the completion of a club’s first Bundesliga season without defeat, but the fact that their incredible series in the 52nd game ended in a final of all things hurt everyone greatly. The triple was over in one fell swoop and the frustration ran deep. “Defeats in finals are not something you forget easily,” said Alonso.

But just as everything went well for Bayer throughout the season, almost everything went well against the Werkself on Wednesday in Ireland. “We had a bad day. But it hurts that it happened in such an important game,” said Alonso: “Today we were simply missing a lot.”

And the opponent beat Leverkusen with their own means. They took the edge off the favorites with passionate, fast-paced and aggressive play and took their chances with ice-cold precision. Especially in the person of Nigerian Ademola Lookman, who had scored a total of five competitive goals for RB Leipzig in two seasons and now beat Bayer almost single-handedly with a hat-trick (12th, 26th and 75th minute). “He probably played the game of his life,” said Hradecky, sobered.

The European press saw a real disillusionment of Alonso’s team. “The invincible became the invisible,” wrote the “Daily Mail” from England.


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