The first thrilling moment came five minutes before kick-off: The Werkself fans created a fantastic and moving choreography for Stefan Kießling to give their hero a suitable farewell ahead of his last game. Shortly after that, Kies received an official farewell from CEO Michael Schade and sporting director Rudi Völler - as did midfielder Vladlen Yurchenko who is also leaving the club.
Then came the kick-off at the cauldron of the BayArena. The fans once again turned the slogan #FinallyRed into impressive reality with the whole stadium bathed in red - with Stefan Kießling shirts from Bayer 04 placed on every seat playing their part.
Head coach Heiko Herrlich was only missing Joel Pohjanpalo and the suspended Kevin Volland. Herrlich made three changes to the side that lined up at Werder Bremen: Lars Bender and Jonathan Tah recovered from injury to replace Panos Retsos and Dominik Kohr in the starting eleven with Lucas Alario replacing Volland up front. Sven Bender started on the bench after returning from injury.
The Werkself were straight out of the starting blocks and left absolute no doubt they would do everything they could to secure a win against Hannover 96. The situation was clear: A 5-0 victory would definitely be enough to qualify for the Champions League and with all other results the outcome would depend on the match between Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund.
And Bayer 04 made a frenetic start. In the third minute, Charles Aránguiz put Alario through with a brilliant pass and the Argentinian pounced to hit the ball into the back of the net from a tight angle to put the Werkself 1-0 up. A perfect start for the hosts and three minutes later came a great chance to double the lead. A foul by Sebastian Maier on Julian Baumgartlinger saw referee Guido Winkmann award a penalty. Wendell stepped up but his low strike went wide of the right-hand post with six minutes on the clock.
But the Werkself kept up the tempo allowing Hannover little time on the ball and forcing them into making mistakes. Alario exploited a howler made by Matthias Ostrzolek as he intercepted an under-hit pass before rounding the 96 keeper Michael Esser and turning the ball into the empty net to make it 2-0 on 18 minutes. The ninth goal of the season for the Argentinian. Baumgartlinger had to go off injured shortly after that with the defensive midfielder being brought down with a poor challenge from Timo Hübers. Dominik Kohr replaced the Austrian. And it was one-way traffic after that in the direction of the Hannover goalkeeper Esser. The visitors had their first chance on the half-hour mark - Martin Harnik missed the target from close range after a cross from Niclas Füllkrug.
The next decent chances fell to Bayer 04 through Aránguiz (31') and Brandt (32') with the angle too tight for his shot on goal. Esser kept out a disguised low effort from Kai Havertz from eleven yards out on 35 minutes. The game continued with Bayer 04 applying all the pressure and the score was 2-0 at half-time. "We've played brilliantly up to now but 3-0 before the break wouldn't have been bad," said the suspended Volland in a half-time interview with Sky.
The Werkself carried on after the restart where they left off in the first half: They put Hannover under constant pressure and created one chance after the next. Leon Bailey twice put in crosses from the right for Alario but he was unable to connect properly with either (50' and 52').
The captain Lars Bender put Brandt through with a great pass and he held his nerve in a one-on-one with Esser to coolly slot the ball away to make it 3-0 on 55 minutes. The Werkself were now completely in control. It seemed a matter of time before the fourth goal would come with Brandt (59') and Havertz (60') having clear-cut chances to extend the lead. By the hour mark, the Werkself had 23 shots on goal compared with just two for Hannover 96.
And the next great chance soon followed. A shot from Alario after a pass from Havertz was blocked by a Hannover player on 68 minutes. Enough chances for another two goals that would have secured fourth place were there. But the Werkself failed to convert them. With the score 3-1 in favour of Hoffenheim against Dortmund it was clear Bayer 04 would have to score another two goals.
The Black and Reds gave their all once again. Karim Bellarabi replaced Aránguiz (74') and Heiko Herrlich brought on Stefan Kießling in place of Lars Bender (83') - and Kies was ready to take a penalty in his 404th Bundesliga game after referee Winkmann had awarded a spot kick after a challenge from Ihlas Bebou on Bellarabi but the decision was rescinded after consulting the VAR.
In the closing minutes, the Werkself were caught out after the huge effort and high tempo shown throughout the game. Füllkrug (90+2') and Harnik (90+4') scored for Hannover in added time. After the final whistle, the Bayer 04 players fell to the ground in disappointment. Hoffenheim's 3-1 win against Borussia Dortmund meant the Werkself were unable to qualify for the Champions League. However, Bayer 04 will be in the Europa League next season.
There with then emotional scenes as Stefan Kießling completed a lap of honour. The Werkself number 11 was visibly moved as he said his farewells with tears flowing as the fans gave him a rousing send-off.
Bayer 04: Leno – L. Bender (Kießling 83'), Tah, Jedvaj, Wendell – Baumgartlinger (Kohr 23'), Aránguiz (Bellarabi 74') - Bailey, Havertz, Brandt – Alario
Hannover 96: Esser - Korb, Hübers, Elez (Bebou 46'), Ostrzolek - Fossum (Albornoz 74'), S. Sané - Maier (Maina 63'), Bakalorz - Harnik, Füllkrug
Goals: 1-0 Alario (3'), 2-0 Alario (18'), 3-0 Brandt (55'), 3-1 Füllkrug (90+2'), 3-2 Harnik (90+4')
Referee: Guido Winkmann (Karken)
Booked: Jedvaj, Kohr - Hübers, Ostrzolek
Special incidents: Wendell misses penalty (6')
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