After two brief appearances in the last two games, Sven Bender started in the very last game of his playing career. With the number 5 in the line-up, Bayer 04 went into the final match of the season against Borussia Dortmund. It was a very special final match for the 32-year-old as he played at BVB for eight years before joining Bayer Leverkusen. Hannes Wolf gave him 89 minutes before he left the pitch to applause as he made way for somebody unexpected…
"I definitely won't play any more" – both Lars Bender as well as the fans were assuming that the right-back would have a quiet exit after his knee operation. But then came the surprise on Saturday: The number 8 was on the squad list under the substitutes. Lars Bender did join the rest of the team in the quarantine hotel in spite of his injury but nobody expected one final appearance. But then the minor miracle became more realistic in the second half when Lars was seen warming up on the touchline. Then it happened on 89 minutes: Together with Julian Baumgartlinger, making his comeback after a torn cruciate, Lars Bender ran onto the pitch for a final time. His twin brother made way for him.
And it became even more fantastic. A penalty for the Werkself – and all the Leverkusen players were unanimous: Lars had to take it! BVB keeper Roman Bürki remained frozen in goal (😉) and our number 8 was able to score for Bayer 04 at the end of his career for the first time this season and the 27th time overall. An incredible farewell gift. And definitely a story that will be recounted for a long time in the Black and Red club history.
Head coach Hannes Wolf, with the game in Dortmund also marking his farewell from Leverkusen, said at the post-match press conference: "In the end, the result was not important any more and emotions played a greater role. The Benders have shaped football for the last 15 years and are absolute role models. That Lars had the chance to say farewell is simply great!"
After the final whistle, the twins received loads of congratulations from their own team as well as from the opponents as well as the staff for both sides. Of course, the Black and Yellows had not forgotten Sven Bender's past at Dortmund and they also gave a suitable farewell to their 'Manni'.
A final time in front of a microphone after a game – the Bender brothers appeared together on Sky. When presenter Uli Petofski posed the first question, both fell silent. "That's heavy," said Lars in expressing his first words. And Sven also had to gather himself: "I'm lost for words…" After pulling themselves together, Lars had an important message for everybody: “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 and refuse to be divided is the message I'd like to pass on. That is what I take with me from my career.”
The next highlight waited for the return to Leverkusen. Fans had gathered in front of the BayArena to give their captain a suitable and personal farewell. The team bus was met with loud chanting and red flares. The twins got lost in the scrum. Lars Bender received an honorary captain's armband from the fans and both joined in celebrating and sharing a beer with their fans. And the newly crowned honorary captain promised to return to the BayArena as soon as fans are allowed back in the stadium.
We'll hold him to that! The fans definitely wanted to say goodbye personally and that was clear from the emotional tweets and posts on the Leverkusen social media channels. ‘@kevin_scheuren’ tweeted: "Lars and Sven Bender are legends. It's a terrible shame we can't all celebrate these farewells together." ‘@xKathaSnow’ wrote: "This penalty story and Lars… Yes, tears were flowing." There were also good wishes from the Bayer Giants Leverkusen who were also moved: "Farewells like that do not leave us cold: Take care, Lars"
Bayer 04 will once again be without defender Arthur after the Brazilian right-back suffered a muscular injury in his right thigh in training on Monday.Show more
The Bundesliga has named the three nominees for November’s Rookie of the Month award. Werkself striker Victor Boniface, who has won the trophy in August, September and October, is once again up for the award. Fans have the chance to pick the winner by casting their votes online.Show more
Once again there will be an early bird phase for tickets to Bayer 04 Bundesliga home games in the 2023/24 Rückrunde, open exclusively to Bayer 04 Club members. The latest information.Show more
Monster Energy has been a partner in the Sponsors Club at Bayer 04 Leverkusen since the start of the 2023/24 season. Monster Energy has shown their products at Werkself home games on the LED advertising hoardings at the BayArena. Monster Energy activated the next stage of the partnership with the current Bundesliga league leaders for Bayer 04’s home game against Union Berlin in the middle of November. Monster Energy will continue to present themselves as a reliable and ambitious partner to Leverkusen fans through similar promotional events as at the game against Union Berlin.Show more