The teams in Group D were bunched together on four points. So everything was up for grabs on matchday four that took Bayer 04 to England for the first time in the club's history. Of course, the whole package should live up to the special occasion. Accordingly, the team and staff checked in at the Landmark Hotel where Germany stayed when they won the European Championships in 1996. The night before the game at Highbury, the club management invited the travelling partners, sponsors and members of the media for an enjoyable evening in the Middle Temple Hall, where some of the first works of Shakespeare were performed in 1602 and is now the home of one the four bar associations in England. A Beatles tribute band provided the music after the meal. The events in the metropolis of London were certainly impressive. The capital of England also proved to be a major attraction to Leverkusen fans. There were 2,500 supporters of the Black and Reds: Never before had so many made the trip to a European away game by coach, car or plane. London calling – the Bayer 04 fans followed the call in droves and they look forward to a feast of football at the legendary Highbury stadium. The Werkself were in confident mood having beaten the Bundesliga league leaders Borussia Dortmund 4-0 the weekend before and thereby going top of the table.
So much atmosphere, so much anticipation, so much confidence – and then everything was more or less over after seven minutes. Lucio carelessly lost the ball to Patrik Vieira in midfield and a solo run by Pires across half the length of the pitch ended up with a perfect finish: 1-0 to Arsenal after five minutes. 120 seconds later, the hosts counter-attacked Leverkusen with their attacking tactics and three strikers (Neuville, Kirsten, Ze Roberto) and were clinical for the second time. Again it started with Vieira and everything happened too quickly for the Werkself. Thierry Henry rounded off an attack involving Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord to make it 2-0 on seven minutes.
Bayer 04 then had more of the game but didn't really threaten the goal of legendary keeper David Seaman. The result was put beyond doubt when the outstanding Vieira gave Arsenal a 3-0 lead after the restart (48'). Arsenal were playing with ease at the highest level and move the ball at will with Bayer 04 sticking to their task but without real penetration. A wonder goal from Bergkamp made it 4-0 (83') and Zoltan Sebescen managed to score a consolation goal on 87 minutes.
The lob from the Dutchman Bergkamp at 4-0 was definitely one of the best goals in the 2001/02 Champions League campaign. Bergkamp received the ball just outside the box, left Michael Ballack and Lucio standing and then he delicately curled the ball over Jörg Butt into the back of the net. Carsten Ramelow later admitted: "Jens Nowotny and I just looked at each other and we would have been happy to applaud." Reiner Calmund actually did that in the stands. "It's good that nobody caught me on camera when I was clapping," the Bayer 04 general manager later revealed.
Zoltan Sebescen's goal also deserved applause when, after fine work from Yildiray Bastürk, when he volleyed the ball into the back of the net from a tight angle. Seaman could be happy he didn't get in the way of that hammer blow.
Nobody on the Werkself team earned that plaudit on the night. To be fair there was only one player on the pitch who could lay claim to that: Patrik Vieira. The French midfielder set up the first two goals for Arsenal and topped that with a world-class effort to make it 3-0.
"We play and play and play, then lose the ball and Arsenal ran away with it," said Bayer 04 general manager Reiner Calmund in commenting on events on the pitch. "We thought it would be a bit different," said Michael Ballack, "and we made a lot of mistakes. The goals kept coming."
Klaus Toppmöller was also dismayed: "We got everything wrong that could go wrong, I didn't think that was possible," admitted the Leverkusen coach. His opposite number Arsène Wenger was full of praise for his team: "Our team spirit is incredibly good and we scored some incredible goals. We succeeded in surprising Leverkusen."
"French skill combined with English strength – that mix was too much for Bayer," said the Kicker in their post-match analysis and adopted a pessimistic position with the headline: "Quarter-finals hardly possible." The Kölnische Rundschau also had little faith in the Werkself as they gave them "only a theoretical chance of reaching the quarter-finals." The Rheinische Post declared: "All the work down the tubes because the whole team from number one to eleven failed to perform. The first match in the mother country of football ended in humiliation for the Bayer Leverkusen players: A 4-1 defeat to Arsenal, shown how to play, neutralised with two quick goals that robbed them of almost any chance of reaching the quarter-finals."
Arsenal: Seaman – Dixon, Stepanovs, Campbell, Lauren (Inamoto 84’) – Grimandi (Edu 67’), Vieira, Pires, Wiltord (Pennant 88’) – Bergkamp, Henry
Bayer 04: Butt – Zivkovic (Sebescen 74’), Lucio, Nowotny, Placente – Schneider (Bastürk 46’), Ramelow, Ballack – Neuville, Kirsten (Berbatov 46’), Ze Roberto
Goals: 1-0 Pires (5’), 2-0 Henry (7’), 3-0 Vieira (48’), 4-0 Bergkamp (83’), 4-1 Sebescen (86’)
Booked: Ballack, Ramelow, Zivkovic
Chances: 8 to 3
Shots at goal: 8 to 6; on target: 6 to 3
Corners: 1 to 5
Referee: Alain Hamer (Luxembourg)
The 2,500 travelling Bayer 04 fans refused to be downhearted after the two early goals conceded. Before the kick-off, they did their part in helping to provide a great atmosphere in the Leverkusen end with continuous singing. There was little sign at Highbury of the much praised atmosphere that was supposed to be experienced at all English stadiums. "It was all very relaxed and almost lethargic as if it was in theatre or library," recalled the Bayer 04 fan liaison officer Andreas 'Paffi' Paffrath. "More library than Highbury! The Arsenal supporters did applaud our vocal support after the match." Perhaps there was also applause for the humour of the supporters from Leverkusen. When Zoltan Sebescen made it 4-1, they "celebrated enthusiastically and chanted away win, away win," said Paffi.
The situation for the Toppmöller team was obviously significantly worse after defeat. The Werkself were now bottom of the group with Deportivo, who beat Juventus 2-0, and Arsenal joint top with seven points. Now came all the calculations. "If we get a home win against Juve and Arsenal beat Deportivo then a draw in Spain would be enough," said Toppi in mulling the options. The next match at the BayArena on 20 March against the 'Old Lady' from Turin had to end with a victory to ensure a chance of reaching the quarter-finals.
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