"We played a great game in the second half and we’re very happy to have finished fourth," said sporting managing director Rudi Völler after the match. "The team has earned it and shown that they can handle pressure," added sporting director Simon Rolfes: "The team have given a top performance today and completed the catch-up in the second half of the season. That tells us about the character of the team." Kevin Volland rejoiced: "We’ve had a great final push and now we are playing in the Champions League – it’s amazing for the fans, the whole city and for us as a team. " "Leverkusen were the better team, they deserved to win and reach the Champions League. Congratulations." said outgoing Hertha coach Pal Dardai.
Head coach Peter Bosz made one change to the starting eleven against Schalke: Former Hertha man Mitchell Weiser started at right-back in place of Lars Bender. The situation was clear before the season finale in Berlin: "We have to win on Saturday and score several goals if possible," said Bosz before the fight for a Champions League spot. Bayer 04 were equal on points with fourth-placed Mönchengladbach but two behind on goal difference. Frankfurt lay in sixth place, one point behind but three ahead on goal difference.
It was a tense situation before kick-off at the Olympic Stadium with over 3,000 Leverkusen supporters cheering on their team in their "Finally Red" kit.
The game kicked off in beautiful sunshine. The first chance fell to the hosts from a corner: Vedad Ibisevic tested Lukas Hradecky with a header (3'). Leverkusen tried to take hold of proceedings with their combination game, but it took a while to pay off. Hertha keeper Thomas Kraft had to stretch to steer the ball over the crossbar from Wendell's long-range shot (10'). Otherwise, not much happened in the early stages with few chances on either side. Kai Havertz fired just past the right post (22'). At the other end, Hertha posed a threat in the Leverkusen penalty area but failed to take advantage.
The next good opportunity fell to the Black and Reds: Sven Bender headed towards goal from a Brandt corner but Kraft cleared with Alario arriving just too late (26'). However, a minute later, Jonathan Tah fed Kai Havertz down the right with a long pass and the 19-year-old pulled away and buried the ball into the net to give Leverkusen a 1-0 lead (28'). It was Havertz’s 17th goal of the season – the highest number for a 19-year-old in Bundesliga history. And for the ninth time, Havertz scored the first goal to break the deadlock for his team.
But the Berliners were quickly back in the game as Valentino Lazaro equalised from Ondrej Duda’s cross. Lazaro just had to hold his foot out on the line for a tap-in (34').
Leverkusen did not appear overly concerned by the setback. Just four minutes later Kraft blocked Brandt's shot from an acute angle. Seconds later Alario scooped the ball into the net to score a great goal and make it 2-1 for Bayer, despite being strongly challenged by Karim Rekik (38'). It was a deserved lead and the visitors were the livelier team. At the break they were fourth in the table - Gladbach were 1-0 down against Dortmund and Bayern led Frankfurt 1-0.
In the second half, Bayer remained the more active team, playing more forcefully and purposefully than Hertha. And they were rewarded for their dedication after just under an hour with a third goal. On the right side Charles Aránguiz wonderfully found Julian Brandt, who shot from 19 yards out finding the corner of the net (55'). It was a stunning goal, with Bayer 04 well on course for the Champions League, especially as Borussia Dortmund led 2-0 in Gladbach. It looked good for Bosz’s team.
Bayer 04 had everything under control, taking no risks at the back and continuing to attack. After a cross from Mitchell Weiser and a volley from Kevin Volland, Alario finished it off for his second goal - this time with his head – making it 4-1 to the Black and Reds (71'). The match at the Olympic Stadium was as good as over and it was already a day to remember for the Leverkusen fans. Alario then scored his third goal from five yards out to make it 5-1 (87') and it was time to celebrate.
The team celebrated fourth place and the prospect of Champions League football with their fans. In the other important matches, Gladbach were defeated 2-0 by Dortmund and Frankfurt lost 5-1 to the champions Bayern Munich.
Hertha BSC: Kraft - Klünter (Mittelstädt 45'), Lustenberger, Rekik, Plattenhardt - Skjelbred (Dilrosun 46'), Grujic - Lazaro, Duda, Kalou - Ibisevic (Köpke 72')
Bayer 04: Hradecky – Weiser (Kohr 81'), Tah, S. Bender (Dragovic 59'), Wendell – Aránguiz (L. Bender 75'), Baumgartlinger, Brandt – Havertz, Alario, Volland
Goals: 0-1 Havertz (28'), 1-1 Lazaro (33'), 1-2 Alario (38'), 1-3 Brandt (55'), 1-4 Alario (71'), 1-5 Alario (87')
Referee: Marco Fritz (Korb)
Booked: Duda - Volland
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