Barcelona recorded a comfortable 3-0 win in their first group game away at Fenerbahce thanks to goals from Patrick Kluivert, Patrik Andersson and Javier Saviola. The Spanish side went into the clash with the Werkself as favourites. There was experience and youth in equal measure in coach Carles Rexach’s excellent squad. Players like former Leverkusen defender Andersson, current Spain national team coach Luis Enrique and Netherlands international Phillip Cocu were veterans of numerous battles, while there were also up-and-coming stars like Carles Puyol, Xavi, Kluivert and Saviola. But Bayer 04 also had a number of exceptional players in their ranks and were full of confidence from how the season had gone so far. After an energy-sapping 1-0 win away at Lyon, the Werkself had extended their unbeaten start with a 1-1 draw at Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 7 in the Bundesliga.
The visitors from Spain impressed in the first half with their class on the ball and somewhat unsurprisingly took the lead through Enrique in the 22nd minute. He then missed the chance to double the advantage only four minutes later. Usually so assured from the penalty spot, Jörg Butt squandered the chance of an equaliser from 12 yards on 29 minutes. Despite another opportunity for Lucio, Barcelona took a deserved lead into the break. Bayer 04 then came out of the changing room a different side. Klaus Toppmöller sent on Bastürk for Zoltan Sebescen, and the Turkey international had an immediate impact by levelling the score in the 52nd minute. The home side had finally found a way into the game and were starting to play through the favourites with excellent passing football. They reaped the rewards for the marked improvement when Oliver Neuville put Leverkusen 2-1 up in the 69th minute.
If VAR had existed back then, Barcelona’s goal wouldn’t have even counted, as Enrique was actually offside when he received Kluivert’s pass. When Butt then put his penalty wide a few moments later, it felt like it was going to be an unlucky evening for Leverkusen. But things turned around in the second half thanks to two standout moments. After a foul on Lucio, Neuville didn’t wait for the referee’s whistle but reacted quickly to take advantage and play the ball into Bastürk on the edge of the box. He left Roberto Bonano no chance in the Barca goal with a well-placed low finish into the left corner. The second Leverkusen goal was also the result of spirit as Lucio slid in to win the ball, Bernd Schneider crossed high into the penalty area and Neuville volleyed it home from ten yards to make it 2-1.
It was Bastürk’s introduction that saw things turn around. The midfielder added impetus, speed and dynamism once he came on. His equalising goal also sent out a decisive message.
“That 2-1 win in the group stage was maybe a key game for us,” Bastürk said looking back. “Because we saw here that we can not just keep pace with the big boys but also beat them.” Coach Toppmöller stated after the 90 minutes: “I was so annoyed that Barcelona had made us look such fools in the first half that I asked the boys in the changing room to explain what they were actually afraid of. And then I told them we’re to start again from zero and shift to a back three. Yildiray Bastürk came on so we had a numerical advantage in midfield, turned the game around and ultimately claimed a deserved win.”
The Süddeutsche Zeitung called the win “Toppmöller’s cultural revolution”. Die Welt claimed the team had “new team spirit”. And the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s assessment was that “the master of small games has now also beaten a big opponent”.
Bayer 04: Butt – Sebescen (Bastürk 46’), Lucio, Nowotny, Placente – Schneider, Ramelow, Ballack, Ze Roberto (Zivkovic 84’) – Neuville, Kirsten (Ojigwe 75’)
Barcelona: Bonano – Puyol (Gabri 72’), Andersson, Christanval, Sergi – Xavi, Cocu, Rochembach (Gerard 78’), Enrique – Geovanni (Saviola 55’), Kluivert
Goals: 0-1 Enrique (22’), 1-1 Bastürk (52’), 2-1 Neuville (69’)
Yellow cards: Lucio, Ramelow, Neuville – Puyol, Xavi, Cocu
Shots: 13-7; on target: 6-6
Referee: Hugh Dallas (Scotland)
Attendance: 22,500 (sold out)
Photos of the day
Of course, the BayArena was sold out for the first home game of the group stage. It was the first time Barcelona had played in Leverkusen – after the 1988 UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg had been played in Cologne – and nobody wanted to miss it. All three goals took place in front of the north stand, which was where Tobias Neumann, the voluntary Bayer 04 fan spokesman at the time, was watching the game: “I’ll never forget our winning goal: the superb cross from Schnix, the volley from Olli Neuville right in front of our eyes. Mad celebrations.” In fact, it wasn’t just the north stand but the whole BayArena in raptures. Who there would’ve thought that would be just the first of many memorable evenings that season in Leverkusen?
A second win in as many games saw Bayer 04 move to the top of Group F ahead of Barcelona and Lyon, who had won their match that day 1-0 at Fenerbahce. Matchday 3 would see the Turkish side come to the BayArena on 10 October.
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