Wolf off to a flying start
The coaching staff including Hannes Wolf, brought in on loan from the Germany U18 team, have just eleven days to get the stumbling Werkself back on track for European qualification. In intensive and thorough training sessions, the 39-year-old coach tries to restore defensive stability to the team – with success. The first outing for Wolf against Schalke 04 is a success: Lucas Alario, and substitute Patrik Schick brought on for the Argentinian, secure the so important 2-1 win with goals number ten and nine respectively.
Defensive stability is also evident in the following matches against TSG Hoffenheim (0-0) and FC Köln. In the second derby win against FC Köln this season – the last time that happened was in 2008/09 – the scorers in the 3-0 victory were the in-form Leon Bailey with a brace and Moussa Diaby.
Although the hard-earned derby victory could not be celebrated by Bayer 04 fans at the BayArena, numerous Black and Reds supporters – while observing the coronavirus regulations and wearing face masks – get behind their team during the game from Bismarckstraße. That represents novel support from fans in challenging times. Thanks to the arena roof, Lukas Hradecky and Co. can celebrate with the fans acoustically from a distance.
Werkself in Europe
Wolf's unbeaten run with seven points from three games ends with a 2-0 away defeat at Bayern Munich. Three more games without defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt (3-1), Werder Bremen (0-0) and Union Berlin (1-1) secure European qualification for the Black and Reds with one game to play. The target of the Europa League is achieved.
An emotional finale
The Werkself are away to Borussia Dortmund on the final matchday at the Signal Iduna Park. As both teams have already achieved their targets in the league before the last game of the season, football almost takes second place in the 3-1 defeat for Bayer 04 against BVB.
It is a finale full of farewells. Referee Manuel Gräfe is in charge of his last match. BVB bid farewell to Lukasz Piszczek. And for Bayer 04, Lars and Sven Bender make the final appearances of their playing careers. After over 15 years of battle, passion and commitment, the defensive stalwarts leave the stage of professional football.
The fact that Sven Bender in his final match at his former club Borussia Dortmund makes way for his twin brother on 89 minutes, who was not supposed to play due to a knee injury, in what appears to be the emotional pinnacle of the game. But there was better to come.
Lars Bender versus Roman Bürki
Sven's twin brother Lars, who wore the Bayer 04 shirt proudly for twelve years, including five as captain, did actually manage to get on the score sheet. On 89 minutes, the Brannenburg-born defender grabs the ball and converts a penalty to score his last goal for Bayer 04 – BVB keeper Roman Bürki remains static out of respect for a great career as the ball goes past him into the back of the Dortmund net.
Following the rather academic match, the twins have weighty words for their departure. In his final TV interview as a professional footballer, given together with his twin brother, Lars shares an impressive message: “A football team is a symbol of what society should look like. Standing together, standing up for each other and having a common target. And it doesn't matter at all who is sitting next to you, what he looks like, where he comes from, which religion and views he has or his cultural background. Stand together. Refuse to be divided. That’s the message I'd like to pass on. That is what I take with me from my career.”
The seventh Bayer 04 honorary captain
Those words once again demonstrate: A really great football player and personality is saying goodbye. The management at the club have known for a long time what Leverkusen are losing in this player. And it is no surprise that Bayer 04 announce ahead of the final home game of the season that Lars Bender is the seventh Werkself honorary captain. That puts the 'Bavarian at Bayer' alongside Ulf Kirsten, Carsten Ramelow, Bernd Schneider, Simon Rolfes, Rüdiger Vollborn and Stefan Kießling. The presentation at the BayArena will only be made when supporters can return to the stadium. In the 2021/22 season.
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