After the final whistle, Völler climbed the fence at the North Stand to speak to the fans. “What happened here today at the stadium was simply brilliant,” he said before joining in the celebrations with the supporters.
The Werkself had already secured third place and a thirteenth campaign in the UEFA Champions League last weekend with the 4-2 win at TSG Hoffenheim. So, everything was set up for a relatively relaxed afternoon on the pitch – along with a high emotional factor. Rudi Völler, who joined Leverkusen as a player from Marseille in 1994, has retired from management and the crowd in a party mood at the sold-out BayArena paid homage to Rudi with a moving choreography and standing ovations. The 62-year-old Völler, who provided countless photo and autograph opportunities for the fans long before kick-off, will stay on at Bayer 04 on the shareholders committee and also as a club ambassador.
In addition to the sporting managing director, there was also a farewell for Julian Baumgartlinger who leaves the Werkself after six years under the Bayer Cross. The 34-year-old Austria international was captain in his final appearance for Bayer 04. The starting line-up also included goalkeeper Andrey Lunev, making his Bundesliga debut after previously being in goal for the Europa League game against Ferencvaros in Budapest. Other changes in the starting eleven were the left-back Daley Sinkgraven, Exequiel Palacios plus Lucas Alario who played up front alongside Patrik Schick. There were three goalkeepers on the bench: Lukas Hradecky, Lennart Grill and Niklas Lomb.
Moussa Diaby was painfully made aware early on that Freiburg needed a result in the game: Maximilian Eggestein brought the Frenchman’s solo run to an abrupt end with a kick on the ankle and he was rightly shown a yellow card (2’). The crowd at the completely red BayArena, including Germany coach Hansi Flick, saw the Werkself side enjoy plenty of possession and move the ball with ease. Nico Schlotterbeck had the first effort on goal for Freiburg with a header that Lunev easily plucked out of the air (15’). A header from Lucas Höler hit the outside of the post (20’).
The match was not particularly exciting but there was nothing to stop the joy of the Bayer 04 fans. Patrik Schick had a good chance to net his 25th goal of the season on 36 minutes to equal the club record set by Stefan Kießling but the effort from the Czech Republic striker from a Paulinho corner was headed just wide of the post. At the other end, a curler from Vincenzo Grifo went just past the top of the Leverkusen net (44’). The half-time score was 0-0.
At the start of the second half, Daley Sinkgraven blocked Roland Sallai as he was about to shoot (50’). And it was even better when Schick won the ball from Schlotterbeck and, through on the Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken, he opted to square the ball to Alario instead of shooting himself for the 1-0 lead on 54 minutes. The Werkself almost doubled the lead shortly after that: A sharp shot from Paulinho was brilliantly saved by Flekken and Schick hit the rebound against the underside of the bar (59’). Immediately after that, the fans were on their feet to applaud Julian Baumgartlinger who made way for Charles Aránguiz, and Robert Andrich came on for the goalscorer Alario (60’) with Mitchel Bakker replacing Sinkgraven five minutes later (65’).
A header from Philipp Lienhart also went just wide of the target (70’) as did a header from substitute Ermedin Demirovic (82’). Bayer 04 again made a double substitution with Sardar Azmoun and Piero Hincapie coming on for Schick and Paulinho (83’). A shot by Andrich from the edge of the penalty area went wide of the target (87’). Then Freiburg scored: Substitute Haberer fired the ball into the net to level at 1-1 (88’). SC Freiburg only needed to score another goal to qualify for the Champions League as Red Bull Leipzig were losing 1-0 at Arminia Bielefeld at that point. Schlotterbeck frustrated another promising counter-attack by the Werkself when he cleared from Azmoun from a diagonal ball from Diaby (90’). The Iran international hit the post shortly after that (90+2’)
But the match had another highlight: In the seventh minute of added time, when the Freiburg keeper Flekken went up for a corner, Exequiel Palacios won possession on the halfway line and shot from the semi-circle into the empty Freiburg net – 2-1, the winner and a joyful conclusion for the Werkself. The fans could now begin their exuberant celebrations.
Following the final match of the 2021/22 season, the Werkself will set off on Sunday afternoon for a six-day tour of Mexico where there will be a friendly on Tuesday 17 May at the Mexican top flight club Deportivo Toluca in addition to numerous marketing and PR events to celebrate the centenary of Bayer Mexico.
Bayer 04: Lunev – Kossounou, Tah, Tapsoba, Sinkgraven (Bakker 65’) – Diaby, Baumgartlinger (Aránguiz 60’), Palacios, Paulinho (Hincapie 83’) – Alario (Andrich 60’), Schick (Azmoun 83’)
SC Freiburg: Flekken – Kübler (Sildillia 60’), Lienhart, N. Schlotterbeck, Günter – Eggestein (Haberer 69’), Höfler – Sallai (Schmid 79’), Jeong (Petersen 69’), Grifo – Höler (Demirovic 79’)
Goals: 1-0 Alario (54’), 1-1 Haberer (88’), 2-1 Palacios (90+7’)
Referee: Sven Jablonski (Bremen)
Booked: Diaby, Baumgartlinger – Eggestein, N. Schlotterbeck, Sildillia
Attendance: 30,210 (sold-out)
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