“Tired, disappointed and just empty,” said Klaus Toppmöller after the 4-2 defeat in the DFB Cup final against Schalke 04. His team had just lost the second of three possible titles. As with the league title lost in the final stages it was a case of being empty-handed again at the Berlin Olympic Stadium on 11 May. However, Ballack, Berbatov and Co. did not have much time to lick their wounds. Four days after the final in Germany’s capital came the final of the Champions League against Real Madrid in Glasgow. Reiner Calmund suggested a way of overcoming the frustration: “I’d just adopt an up yours attitude and let it rip. Perhaps you’d have a thick head the next day but at least your mind would be clear.”
In the following days, 5,000 fans greeted their team at the BayArena as part of the end of season party and they tried to help the Werkself rebuild their mental strength again. There was even a banner with the ditty: “Germany’s best runners-up. You don’t need any German titles, that’s not your level; get the European title and make us happy in Glasgow.”
That season was not plain sailing for Real Madrid either. In the domestic cup competition, the Copa del Rey, the star-studded team lost 2-1 to Deportivo La Coruna at home at the Bernabeu Stadium. And they also lost 3-0 to the same opponents in La Liga five days before the Champions League final. That meant Real only finished third behind champions Valencia and Deportivo and they missed out on direct qualification for the Champions League. And that on their centenary.
Defender Roberto Carlos feared total failure. “It will be all right if we win the ninth European Cup for Real on Wednesday. It will be hell if we don’t,” said the Brazil international. Real Madrid’s coach Vicente del Bosque took a similar view: “It will only be a good season if we win this cup.” His team were clearly the favourites, “we are always that,” added Del Bosque. “but Bayer have a team that never gives up and is always capable of springing a surprise on the pitch.”
Werkself coach Klaus Toppmöller had to manage without Jens Nowotny (torn cruciate) and the suspended Ze Roberto in Glasgow. In addition, Zoltan Sebescen, Michael Ballack and Oliver Neuville went into the final with knocks and Thomas Brdaric and Oliver Neuville were the front two in the Bayer 04 attack.
The star ensemble from Madrid with World Cup winner and European champion Zinedine Zidane, the current World Player of the Year Luis Figo, Brazil defender Roberto Carlos and Spanish star striker Raul in the line-up applied pressure from the start at Hampden Park. The early lead for Real came from a long throw-in from Roberto Carlos and a positional error by Lucio. Raul caught out Werkself keeper Jörg Butt on the wrong foot with a weak shot that gave Real a 1-0 lead after nine minutes. But Bayer 04 produced a prompt response. From a Bernd Schneider free kick, Lucio powered a header into the back of the net to level (13’) and make up for his mistake with the opening goal. Leverkusen then dominated at times with Thomas Brdaric (22’) and Michael Ballack (27’) both having good chances to put their team ahead. For the Spaniards, Luis Figo hardly featured. But it was another Madrid superstar who finally made the difference. Zinedine Zidane’s spectacular volley from 16 yards out with an assist from Roberto Carlos restored Real’s lead just before half-time (45’).
In the second half, Real Madrid more or less restricted themselves to managing the game. Bayer 04 were initially unable to create clear-cut chances but succeeded in upping their attacking efforts as the game went on. Leverkusen had one chance after the next in the final stages. Yildiray Bastürk and, above all, Dimitar Berbatov had several chances to level with their feet or heads. However, when the goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez went off injured on 68 minutes, the substitute shot-stopper Iker Casillas could not be beaten. The young keeper frustrated several great chances for the Werkself with incredible reflex saves. In added time, Jörg Butt had a good chance to score when he went up field but was unable to get the ball in the back of the net.
The leveller at 1-1 was a typical Lucio goal. With fire in his belly – after his mistake for Raul’s opener – the Brazilian defender demonstrated his determination once again when he rose to meet Bernd Schneider’s free kick, effortlessly beating Real captain Fernando Hierro. The winner just before half-time was even better. Zidane’s left-foot volley from the edge of the box definitely belongs to the category of wonder goal. The French superstar struck the ball almost perfectly and it flew into the roof of the net: Iker Casillas went in goal for the injured Cesar and became the …
He was only in the Real Madrid goal for 25 minutes but he was the player who protected his team’s narrow lead with several impressive saves, reflex interventions and his feet. Iker Casillas became the matchwinner. Even the Real sporting director Real Jorge Valdano admitted to Reiner Calmund after the game: “If Cesar had played the full 90 minutes then you would have scored at least another goal.”
“I’m proud of this team,” declared Reiner Calmund. “A lot of players have played 70 games. They once again gave all they had in their legs and fought to the end. We were short of a goal again. I’m sad but proud nevertheless.” Michael Ballack said: “Real were there for the taking today. At the same time, Madrid were clinical with their chances. We played brilliantly and were well organised in defence. But you have to take the few chances you get in a final.” Oliver Neuville could not hide his disappointment: “It hurts. We played well but gave away two soft goals and we ran out of luck in the end.” Coach Klaus Toppmöller acknowledged: “Disappointment had the upper hand at first but then came the pride that the team played so well and fought with passion as the underdogs.” Bernd Schneider took a similar position: “There’s a lot of frustration, anger and disappointment. You could see we were on top after it was 1-1. We could have wrapped it up. We were caught out by a long throw from Roberto Carlos. The goal scored by Zidane was world-class. Out of 100 attempts, he puts one in the back of the net.” The scorer of the winning goal said: “Well, it was a good goal. I knew the ball was going in. I definitely wanted to win and this success is so important. For the fans, the club – and for me.” Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque recognised how tight it was in the end: “Bayer were very close to making it 2-2. They never gave up and didn’t leave us alone for a minute.” While keeper Jörg Butt freely admitted, “I didn’t look good for the opener from Raul,” goalkeeping coach Toni Schumacher looked at the whole picture: “Although we haven’t won any titles, Bayer have had a sensational season and done a lot for German football.” Jupp Heynckes, back then coach of the Spanish top-flight side Athletic Bilbao, even suggested: “Fans in Germany should put up a monument for Leverkusen. In times where there’s so much mucking about on pitches this team have brought back the desire to play football.”
It is little surprise that the media focused on the scorer of the wonder goal at 2-1. Not only the Spanish newspapers celebrated, “Zidane, the King of Glasgow” (AS), the “God with the number five” (Marca).”The Whites had the luck in this game full of passion with two undisputed heroes: Zizou and Casillas,” wrote the Sport. And the Italian Corriere dello Sport saw “a triumph.” The Gazzetta dello Sport reported in reference to the total of nine titles for the Madrid team in the Champions League and the European Cup: “Real played their ninth Symphony. Toppmöller’s team battled but deserved to lose in the end. There were holes in the Bayer defence.”
The Guardian reported: “A French rocket from Zidane’s left foot decided the final. As long as Leverkusen kept an eye out for Zidane, the team looked good. When Bayer blinked once, it happened.” In Austria they shared the pain of the losers. The Kronenzeitung declared: “Two strokes of genius rescued Real’s centenary festival! Leverkusen failed in the third big match within eleven days and remained true to their reputation as eternal runners-up in an almost tragic manner.”
Die Presse saw in the disappointed Bayer 04 players “Heroes in sad forms. Leverkusen are empty-handed. On the other hand. Heroic but out of luck.” The German media highlighted above all the performance of the Leverkusen team. The Kölnische Rundschau witnessed “a result the pundits expected but it says nothing about how close the Bayer team were to the big coup.” Given the many clear-cut chances in the final minutes, Leverkusen deserved extra time, “because the German runners-up dominated the supposed high flyers from Madrid for long stretches of the game.” And the Rheinische Post praised the performance of the Werkself in the headline of the match report: “A great loser.”
Bayer 04: Butt – Sebescen (Kirsten 64’), Zivkovic, Lucio (Babic 89’), Placente – Schneider, Ballack, Ramelow, Bastürk – Brdaric (Berbatov 39’) Neuville
Real Madrid: Cesar (Casillas 67’) – Salgado, Hierro, Helguera, Roberto Carlos – Solari, Makelele (Conceicao 73’), Figo (McManaman 61’), Zidane – Raul, Morientes
Goals: 0-1 Raul (8’), 1-1 Lucio (13’), 1-2 Zidane (45’)
Booked: Salgado, Roberto Carlos
Shots: 13-7; on target: 6-4
Referee: Urs Meier (Switzerland)
Attendance: 51,456 (sold out)
Around 10,000 Bayer 04 fans followed the Werkself to Glasgow. Many of them under their own steam with others in one of ten planes or on one of the 16 organised coaches. Many of the fan clubs came in full strength. For example, 30 members of the ‘Rheinmacht Hoppaz’ romped about on George Square in the centre of Glasgow on Wednesday afternoon where hundreds of Leverkusen fans gathered in the hours before the game. Fabian Fuhr and Alexander Grein had kilts made especially for the final. Probably the most arduous journey was made by Ralf Günther. The Bayer 04 fan and former (Cologne) carnival pince lost a bet and he had to cycle the 1,000 kilometres from the Rhineland to Glasgow. The then 42-year-old took eleven days to complete the journey. Günther joined the fans on George Square with his bike on the afternoon of the matchday where the Real Madrid supporters were also getting in the mood for the final in clearly greater numbers. In the evening there was a whiff of great and old football history at Hampden Park. The guests of honour of Real Madrid included their club legends Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas. There were plenty of prominent personakities in the VIP boxes. Spain’s King Juan Carlos, actor and James Bond player Sean Connery were there as were guests of the then UEFA president Lennart Johansson, DFB president Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, North Rhine-Westphalia minister president Wolfgang Clement, boxing world champion Henry Maske, Leverkusen’s mayor Paul Hebbel and the chairman of the board of Bayer AG Werner Wenning. Almost 3,000 Bayer 04 fans were at the match in a game broadcast worldwide to over 200 countries, and it was shown on a big screen at the Wilhelm Dopatka Halle (today: Ostermann Arena).
There were celebrations nevertheless: In the fine Crutherland House hotel near Glasgow, the players, staff, management, sponsors and VIPs marked a fantastic season without a title win. A large number of the Bayer 04 players were unable to take holidays on their return to Leverkusen. 14 Werkself players were in the World Cup squads for their countries. The World Cup in Japan/South Korea, that started on 31 May 2002, was a huge success from a Bayer 04 perspective.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen have given U17 player Francis Onyeka a long-term contact. The club has agreed a deal with the 16-year-old to 30 June 2027.Show more
#B04eSports team suffered the first defeat of the season on matchday five in the VBL Club Championship 2023/24. Last night’s other games ended in a win and a draw. The Black and Reds are now fifth in the North West division.Show more
The fans have decided: The goal scored by Florian Wirtz to make it 1-0 for Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the 2-1 home win against SC Freiburg was voted Goal of the Month for October with 45 % of the votes cast. The 20-year-old Werkself player won the vote conducted by ARD-Sportschau by a clear margin ahead of second-placed Harry Kane (Bayern Munich).Show more
BK Häcken have yet to gain a point in Group H. The club from Gothenburg entertain the Werkself on Thursday 30 November (kick-off: 21.00 CET). Häcken will be looking to improve their record in the last European home game of the year against the group leaders.Show more
Bayer 04 celebrate a special anniversary next year. 1 July 1904 saw the foundation of the sports club from the paint factories called the ‘Turn- und Spielverein der Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co. in Leverkusen’Show more