South Stand is officially opened
Before the start of the season Bayer 04 celebrate another milestone in the history of the Ulrich Haberland Stadium: The new South Stand that includes the head office, the BayArena restaurant and the VIP executive boxes is officially open for the League Cup final between Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart in July 1997.
Debut in the champions league
Bayer 04 go through to the group stage of Europe's premier club competition for the first time after beating Dynamo Tbilisi 7-2 on aggregate the qualifying round. From almost relegated to the Champions League - what a turnaround! The squad is strengthened again. Stefan Beinlich, Paulo Rink, Dirk Lottner, Boris Zivkovic and the Brazilian super talent Emerson now wear the Bayer shirt.
False start in the Bundesliga
Bayer 04 make a false start in the Bundesliga. After eight games the team is 15th in the table. Then the Bayer express gets moving. There are big wins at home (5-0 against Hamburg, 6-1 against Karlsruhe, 6-1 against Stuttgart). The team also makes waves away from home with a 3-0 win at the later champions Kaiserslautern, a 1-0 win at Borussia Dortmund and a 4-3 victory away to TSV 1860 Munich (after being 3-1 down).
Two hat-tricks for Ulf
Fans in Leverkusen seek to highlights in November: on 11.11 Ulf Kirsten nets a hat-trick in the 4-0 win against FC Köln to kick off carnival. The 'Schwatte' is the main performer in another great moment two weeks later. Bayer are 2-0 down against Bayern and then lose Christian Wörns due to a red card. Jan Heintze pulled a goal back just before half-time. And then Ulf makes his mark in the second half. The leveller on 69 minutes is followed in the last minute by spectacular double strike to secure a four-to win against the record champions. An unforgettable night of football.
Almost everything goes to plan in the Champions League. There is a 4-0 defeat in Monaco. However, at the end of the day, Bayer go through in Group F with outstanding performances above all against Sporting Lisbon and Lierse SK. The Brazilian Emerson developed into an outstanding player.
Scandal in Ghent
After the 2-0 win at Lierse SK, the Belgian security forces (special branch of the Rijkswacht) react to taunts from a few Bayer fans with brutal force against the whole Bayer fan section in Ghent. Water cannon, tear gas and batons are used. Many Bayer supporters are injured. Bayer 04 submit a protest letter to UEFA and the Belgian Interior Ministry.
First meeting with Real
Bayer 04 face a tough challenge in the quarter-final of the Champions League on 4 March 1998: Real Madrid with there world stars arrive in Leverkusen. Bayer hold Real to a 1-1 draw but the return leg at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu ends with a three-nil defeat in front of 90,000. Nevertheless, it was a successful first campaign in the Champions League. Bayer have gained the taste for it.
Boris Zivkovic pursues Morientes (Real Madrid).
Two proud series end
A proud run ends on 11 April with a 1-0 defeat at VfL Wolfsburg. Bayer 04 went 21 Bundesliga games without losing. In the VW city the defeat meant the end of second place as well. In the final home game against Hertha Berlin on 2 May Bayer also lose for the first time in 31 games at home. Bayer 04 end the season in third place and thereby qualify for the UEFA Cup.
Ulf Kirsten top goalscorer for third time
As in the previous season, Ulf Kirsten was the most successful goalscorer in the Bundesliga again this term. His 22 goals once again secured the top scorer award presented by Kicker. Kirsten won the trophy for the first time in 1993.